I have to confess that a large part of my interest, knowledge and plain obsession with this sport was cultivated in a computer game. Yes, I realise how foolish, stupid and plain childish that may sound and how the virtual world can distort your view of what is actually real, but the past 12 months at Wolves have caused a slight blurring of the lines.
This is a game where I’ve won the World Cup with India, taken Grays Athletic and Barnet into Europe and won the Champions League with Wolves as a matter of course – the virtual world, ladies and gents.
Having said that, even the game would consider some of our transfer activity a little outlandish. It started with the captures of Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota. Then came Willy Boly, Alfred N’Diaye – players with Champions League and international experience were CHOOSING Wolves. Hell even the manager resigned from a secure job at a Champions League club to come to Wolverhampton. Had we slipped into some kind of alternate reality?
The capture of ‘Hooey Patricioo’ feels like a watershed moment (pretty sure I said that last summer though). This feels like a Football Manager kind of signing. A goalkeeper – a European Champion at that – who is currently minding the net in Russia as part of an elite national team, at his peak, with plenty of international and Champions League experience in his locker.
Rui Patricio may not be considered in the top bracket of goalkeepers in world football, but two years ago he made the list for the Ballon D’Or. To put that into context Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Andres Iniesta, Manuel Neuer and Sergio Ramos were all absent from the final list of votes. Such a stellar cast would surely have the red carpet rolled out for them, were they ever to attend Molineux in any capacity, let alone as servants of the club.
But this is the decision Patricio has made. It’s a big step for a man who has never left his native country in terms of the club he plays for – a question mark which hangs over him in my eyes – but this show of faith must not be underestimated. We are becoming the go-to destination for the finest Portuguese talent out there, a home from home outside of the Iberian Peninsula.
Sure, we’ve capitalised on what is an unfortunate situation at a grand old club, but Sporting are far more used to providing players to the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona and Inter Milan. Patricio graduated from the same academy as Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo. He leaves his shores a bona fide legend having played a part in finally bringing an international trophy to Portugal and having amassed more than 400 appearances for his club. And now for the next chapter…
It’s no secret that we have an advantage in the transfer market thanks to Uncle Jorge. Beady, envious eyes watch on as we assemble a squad looking to bypass any form of relegation scrap, looking towards the top half of a league in need of some kind of rejuvenation and shake-up. For too long the established elite have reigned supreme. Perhaps it’s this challenge that has really enticed Patricio, alongside his Portuguese brothers and Nuno.
There will be jibes and barbs. Digs and cries of foul play. But Wolves are on a march. Rui Patricio has firmly tied his flag to the Wolves mast. He could have easily stalled this until the conclusion of Portugal’s World Cup campaign and had his fill of options for a future club. What may seem at the moment as a man punching below his weight could, by the end of the season, be seen as a piece of amazing foresight. The footballing world needs to get used to Wolverhampton being the destination of choice for some of Europe’s best. This is only the beginning.