Has there been a player who so highly rated as a youngster and improved himself every single year, moving up the levels of football in the process and yet his hype has derailed?
Step forward, Ruben Neves.
The youngest Porto captain ever, the youngest Porto player to feature in the UEFA Champions League and a Championship winner at the age of just 21, Neves has been a key cog in the machine that Nuno Espirito Santos has built at Wolves.
He was the main man as Wolves got promoted and became an established Premier League side, which led to him being heavily linked to the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool at one point.
As Wolves have settled in the top third of the division, Neves’ influence has lessened slightly and his performances have plateaued.
They’re still good performances, lets get that clear. He’s still among the better central midfielders in the division outside of the top six but a move to one of those clubs may be needed to see him begin to improve once again.
His ball manipulation and passing range is still fantastic and he’s shown for the Portuguese national team as he was part of the squad that won the UEFA Nations League in 2019, but he has started stalling in his development with Wolves.
While Wolves are performing well still, their style only allows players to express themselves and shine so much. They’re very system-oriented and it’s no surprise that they tend to do well regardless of rotation of players or players leaving or joining the club.
In order for Neves to improve, a move to a side that takes initiative more and controls the ball a bit more than Wolves do could be the step up he needs.
Get him back into the Champions League and playing against the best players in the world to see if he can reach the level he was supposed to reach as a youngster.
With his skillset, level of performance and potential Neves would be a great fit in the Arsenal and Manchester United sides. He would not only help to propel himself into the next level but also help those sides progress more.
It might be a case that his time at Wolves has run it’s course, much like Diogo Jota’s. We’ve seen how he has gone up a level since his move to Liverpool and it may now be time for Neves to make a similar step up.