In the summer of 2019, Wolves signed two unknown Portuguese prospects, Pedro Neto and Bruno Jordao, for a fee believed to be in the region of £20 million.
At the time of the signing, many fans believed that the deal was nothing more than a favour to super-agent Jorge Mendes, however, the 20-year-old winger quickly proved to fans that his talent should be taken seriously.
During a dead rubber Europa League tie with Armenian side, FC Pyunik, Neto bagged his first Wolves goal on debut in front of a full house at Molineux. He continued to impress throughout the season, getting 8 goal involvements in all competitions, with 4 goals and 4 assists. This impressive start to life in England led Neto to start games regularly towards the end of the season, displacing his elder compatriot, Diogo Jota.
Jota’s eventual sale to the Premier League champions, Liverpool, left a void in Wolves’ squad, with Daniel Podence, Adama Traore and Neto left to provide service to Raul Jimenez. It is fair to say that the increased responsibility has allowed the talented playmaker to flourish.
Wolves have utilised their familiar 5-2-3 formation to good effect this season, with Neto often being deployed on the left-hand side of the front three. When going forwards, the youngster’s game is similar to last season. His pace and trickery on the ball gives him the option to isolate full backs and get a cross into the box, whilst also gaining more awareness of his teammates, playing smart passes into space. Currently, the exciting talent has a passing accuracy of 90%, whilst playing 1.8 key passes per game. This is an increase on last season, where the winger had 83% passing accuracy and played 0.5 key passes per game.
In their defensive shape, Wolves revert to a 5-3-2, a system which proved successful for them in the 2018/19 season. Nuno Espirito Santo uses Neto as an extra body in midfield, tucking in alongside the existing two players, with Daniel Podence also moving centrally, pairing Raul Jimenez up top. The slight change to his game is reflected in Neto’s defensive numbers, completing 1.5 interceptions and 0.8 tackles per game, compared to 0.2 and 0.3 respectively in the 2019/20 season.
Away from the tactical tweaks, Neto has become more clinical in and around the box. His shots per game has risen from 0.4 in 2019/20 to 1.1 in 2020/21, with his shot conversion also slightly increasing, from 25% to 27%. Having the confidence to unleash shots has always been a feature of the youngster’s game, with Wolves fans often left wondering as to how he didn’t have more goal involvements.
In Wolves’ previous two matches, Nuno has opted to play a 4-2-3-1 system, after Conor Coady was unavailable for the clash with Southampton. In this match, Neto was used as a substitute, coming on in the 70th minute and scoring in the 75th, tapping in a rebound from close range. This display was enough to earn him a starting spot for Wolves’ trip to the Emirates Stadium, facing an out of form Arsenal side.
The only way to describe Neto’s performance was simply outstanding. He played the full 90 minutes, scoring Wolves’ first goal and played a pivotal part in their second. His second close range finish within a week, paired with his 3 successful dribbles, showcased both sides of his much improved attacking game, whilst his tireless pressing late in the game was evidence of his unlimited determination and winners mentality.
The advancements in his game has also been recognised by Portugal boss, Fernando Santos, with the 20-year-old being gifted his first call up to the senior squad in November. He made his debut in a 7-0 home victory against Andorra, scoring just 8 minutes into the game.
With Wolves starting to play more attacking football, there is plenty of opportunities for the former Braga man to show off his talent on the big stage, proving why he is one of the Premier League hottest prospects.