And so departs BD3. He shall be missed. A direct involvement in 19 league goals from left wing-back is an exceptional return in anybody’s book. For a player who cost £1m it was nothing short of astonishing.
There has been vitriol and understanding in equal measure regarding the departure of Douglas. His output is unquestionable and I’m not sure anybody could have envisaged the success of this signing, on or off the pitch, Douglas was part of an increasingly cosmopolitan group, an anglophile who often became the voice of the squad, fronting up with regularity on all matters. His social media presence was highly active and you could see the enjoyment he was getting from being a part of the Wolves set up.
His wand of a left foot built up a genuine excitement every time we had a set piece, the kind of buzz I can’t remember feeling as a Wolves fan, from Mark Kennedy’s ‘hit the front man’ corners to wondering just who the hell would even step up to hit the wall from a free kick sat 20 yards from goal. As a result, despite all of the lovely, slick interchanges in open play, Wolves became near unparalleled from dead ball situations. It really underpinned the campaign. Think back to the 2-0 victory over Fulham, the 3-0 over Leeds and the epic, epic comeback win versus Bristol City. Barry’s left peg was at the heart of all of these games.
So why the split opinion on his transfer? All things point towards this being received badly by the fanbase, but there is a natural trust between the powers-that-be and the supporters of the club. Douglas, for all his qualities, was into the final year of his contract and aged 28, doesn’t really fit the profile of the vast majority of the squad. If Nuno has identified him as not being a fixture in the team next season, Douglas was only going to drop in value over the course of the next year. Football being the business it is becoming, a financial decision has clearly been taken.
From a football perspective, there were some question marks over Douglas being able to make the step up in class. Athleticism is not his forte and his inability to get in behind full backs in the way that Matt Doherty does meant that many a Wolves attack was slowed down. As a result, I’d hedge my bets that Ruben Neves played probably 50% less of his famous big switches out to Douglas than to Doherty. Whilst Douglas is an exceptional striker of a stationary ball, his crossing from open play left a lot to be desired, a strange fact given his wonderful technique.
The primary concern with Douglas was his ability to defend, which I believe has been overblown. He was a more than competent defender, but his lack of physicality would leave him second favourite in many duels at Premier League level. Consider a middling Premier League winger – Jordon Ibe, for example – whose pace and power would likely overwhelm Douglas over the course of 90 minutes.
There is another strand to the Douglas saga which I believe hasn’t been documented though, and it involves our old friend Jorge Mendes.
Ruben Vinagre is an exceptional talent. He’s just secured the European Under 19 Championship with his country, gave glimpses of his talent over the course of nine rough-and-tumble Championship matches last season and twisted Kyle Walker’s blood in one memorable Carabao Cup tie in October. He’s also a Jorge Mendes client.
Mendes’ involvement at Wolves has ranged from absolute failure – Ola John, Silvio – to outrageous success – Neves, Jota, Costa, Cavaleiro. Things are looking up now, with the arrivals of Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho pushing his credentials among the Wolves faithful even further up. But Barry Douglas may have just become the first real victim of The Mendes Principle.
Douglas, for all his excellence last season, was a roadblock to Mendes’ talent. Vinagre is hot property and his housing at Monaco, now seen as the elite finishing school for burgeoning European talent was no coincidence on his Mendes’ merry-go-round – the boy is special. His potential has a ceiling far higher than that of Douglas, but it can only be realised if he gets game time.
For the record, I actually think this was the right decision to make. Vinagre has a rawness, an enthusiasm and such an absurd amount of talent that it would be difficult to handle if he wasn’t given more than the nine games he enjoyed last season. Barry’s shortcomings I have discussed above, but the question of furthering the career of a Mendes client over a well-established, in-form Wolves player is a curious conundrum. Mendes has a little less sway at Wolves than he might at other clubs where he doesn’t have as much vested interest, but there will always be the issue of what is best for his client that he will need to contend with. For now Vinagre in favour of Douglas may seem like a fair decision, but we may come to confront a situation in the near future where the balance may shift towards Uncle Jorge and his own priorities.
It’s just a thought, a little chin-rubber…for now.