While people think it may be the end of an era at Wolves, their next choice of manager seems to make that a bit unlikely.
After Nuno Espirito Santo and the club announced that he would leave the club via mutual agreement following the end of their Premier League campaign, it was revealed that former Benfica boss Bruno Lage is the front-runner for the job.
But who is Lage and what would he bring to the Wolves team? Well for starters, he’s won titles.
He’s not the most experienced manager around, with question marks around whether he is even eligible to take the job based on Brexit imposed work-permit issues, having spent just a single season as first-team manager at Benfica.
During the 2018/19 campaign, he took over the job on January 6th and won the Primeira Liga by two points ahead of FC Porto, being named as named as manager of the month in each of the final three months. He was eventually then named manager of the season too, and was a big reason for why Joao Felix was deemed good enough for Atletico Madrid to spend £170m on after scoring 20 goals in 43 games.
Lage led the team to win 18 of 19 games in the league, with the only game he didn’t win being a 2-2 draw with Belenenses in which they blew a 2-0 lead. He did also make it to the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions, losing on away goals to Sporting CP in the Taca de Portugal and then 3-1 to Porto in the Taca de Liga. A Europa League run wasn’t successful either, as they were eliminated by Frankfurt on away goals too.
Despite the sole trophy win, it was a mightily impressive Benfica side that he got performing to a very high level. They played fast-paced, attacking football with a real goal threat, while also performing admirably in defence too.
In the 29 games he took charge of during that first half-season his team scored 85 goals, an average of 2.93 goals per game while conceding only 27 goals. Everything pointed to being the start of a magical partnership between the parties.
The following season was far from that though. After starting well, Benfica won just two of their final 10 games together in the Primeira Liga and Lage was sacked in at the end of June. They were eliminated at the first stage of both the Champions League and then the Europa League too by Shakhtar Donetsk, meaning they finished trophyless for the season.
They were eliminated in the third round of the Taca de Liga after failing to win any of their group stage games, before losing in the Taca de Portugal final to ten-man Porto.
Once Benfica hit a wall, he had no way of getting them out of it and that could be an issue if something similar were to happen at Wolves. They have plenty of talent in the squad, including young Portuguese players and while he has experience with younger talent getting out of a rut in the Premier League isn’t easy.
He will no doubt bring some more flair to a side that had gone stale under Santo, and while excitement is always something fans want to see it’s results that are most important. With very little experience at the top level to point to, fans could be quick to turn on him in a bad patch.
Despite that though, it’s a very interesting appointment from Wolves. They clearly want to go in a more attacking direction while maintaining their links with Jorge Mendes and Portugal, and with Lage being a free agent it means they don’t have to spend too much either.
An intriguing, fun appointment by a side in the Premier League with plenty of room to go. It should be a fun season.
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