2018 22under22 Countdown – #15: Ruben Neves


“I have said it before but for me Ruben Neves is the best player I have seen in the Championship. He is too good for the Championship. He is a Champions League player.” – Gary Rowett, Manager of Derby County

Date of Birth: March 13th, 1997 (21 years old)
Nationality: Portuguese
Position: Center Midfield
Club Appearances: 130 (10 goals, 2 assists)
International Appearances: None
EiF Ability Rating: 58.5

*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80.

A quality deep lying playmaker can elevate any team to new heights. The likes of Xabi Alonso and Andrea Pirlo, have been highly influential for the teams they have played for, and hugely missed when they moved on. If Neves continues to play like he did last season, he could soon find his name amongst these ball playing greats.

Ruben Neves joined FC Porto’s academy as soon as the age of 8. His talent was undeniable, and he made his first team debut in 2014, when he was just 17 years old. The next season, he also became the youngest player to captain a side in the Champions League, as he lead Porto to a 2-0 win against Tel Aviv.

Ruben Neves kicked off his career at FC Porto (source: FourFourTwo)

Despite making more than 50 appearances for Porto, Neves was never a guaranteed starter at the club, and lacked consistent game time as result. His career didn’t start taking off during his time in Portugal, but this changed once he made the move to Wolves last summer. The £15.8 million transfer fee saw him become the most expensive player brought into the championship. The transfer itself was brought about by Jorge Mendes, Neves’ agent,  relationship with the owners of Wolves, Fosun international.

In his first season at the club, Neves has established himself as a consistent performer at the Molineux stadium. Ruben Neves plays as one of the 2 central midfielders in Nuno Espirito’s dynamic 3-4-3. He tends to sit deep, and collect the ball from the back three, before spreading out the play. His ability to read the game is obvious and he is well capable of controlling the tempo of games. His cross field diagonals are outstanding, and could one day become a trademark to his style of play in the future. Just like most other deep lying playmakers, he’s also talented at taking set pieces, and he even managed to score 2 free kicks last season. Ruben also takes the occasional pop at goal from range, which has lead to him scoring a few screamers. His volley against Derby County was a particularly outrageous goal. His defending is neat too, but like majority of the players in his mould, isn’t his key asset.

Neves scored an amazing volley against Derby (Source: talkSport)

At the start of the summer, there was a lot of talk about Neves moving to a bigger club in search of European football. Liverpool and Manchester United were especially strongly linked with the Portuguese midfielder. However, Neves has since come out and said that he’d like to stay with Wolves for the next season. Fosun international have invested a lot into Wolverhampton Wanderers since they took over, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change soon . Expect big signings this summer, which could see Wolves potentially fight for a high position finish next season.For Neves to establish himself among the world’s elite, he needs to be fighting for titles and playing European football on a consistent basis. It remains to be seen if Wolves possess the ambition to guide Neves to becoming one of the world’s best.It may not be during this window, but don’t be surprised if Neves makes a move to a European giant within the next couple of seasons.

Written by Nitish Brunth