Big interview: Ruben Neves' journey from wonderkid to leader at Wolves

When Ruben Neves rocked up at Wolves, he was rightly dubbed the ‘wonderkid from Porto’.

Ruben Neves says his time at Wolves so far has been 'beautiful' (PA)
Ruben Neves says his time at Wolves so far has been 'beautiful' (PA)

A season of scintillating performances from the midfielder in the Championship proved those words – sung by supporters as part of the unmistakable ‘Nuno had a dream’ chant – to be absolutely true.

But four years later, he is not a kid any more.

Neves is a leader on the pitch for Wolves and has three children of his own, who have all entered the world during his ‘beautiful’ time at Molineux.

The £15.8million signing arrived in England with big ambitions and appears firmly on his way to fulfilling his targets, as a player and a person.

“I always try to improve every day and, of course, if you look back at when I came, I feel like I’ve improved a lot,” said Neves, sat in one of the offices at Wolves’ Compton training ground, speaking to the Express & Star via video call.

“That’s as a player and as a man. I’m really happy and proud of these four years in Wolves.

“We’ve achieved some beautiful things for the club, which is the most important thing.

“I’m feeling really well, so like I’ve said, I’m really happy to be here and have really enjoyed those years.”

Much has been made of the club’s large Portuguese contingent, but there is a lot to be said about how so many of them have seamlessly adjusted to life in Wolverhampton. Neves is a perfect example of that.

Players will often talk about being settled and happy, but for him, the evidence is clear to see.

Covid-19 has obviously had its impact but, at 24, Neves is happily married and a dad to two boys and a girl – and they feel at ‘home’.

“If we were not comfortable here, we would not do it, for sure,” he said.

“We did it because we feel really comfortable and it feels like our home here. We are really happy to be here and enjoy the life here as well.

“It was a great chance for us to grow our family and enjoy the time with the kids here as well, because we have all the conditions to have a perfect time here.”

Neves has become a family man in Wolverhampton (AMA)

Four years at one club is a long while in this day and age.

In fact, only Conor Coady, Romain Saiss and Morgan Gibbs-White have been part of the first-team set-up at Wolves for more time than Neves.

With that, he has become one of the club’s key figures – officially recognised as vice-captain.

Coady, as everyone is well aware of, is a vocal skipper. If there is an instruction or bit of praise that needs to be given out during a game, he will not hesitate.

Second-choice goalkeeper John Ruddy, the most experienced player in the camp, is also one to make himself heard on matchdays.

Neves, meanwhile, who captained Porto during his teens, says he is more of a leader by example.

“I always try to be an example for all the team,” he said on Wolves’ dressing room dynamic.

“But we have a lot of leaders in our team. We have a fantastic squad, so it’s easy to be captain of a squad like we have.

“I was captain at Porto as well and it’s much easier to be captain here, because everyone is fantastic. Everyone works for the same thing.

“We don’t need to always be talking with the guys, because most of the time they are focused on what they need to do.

“I’m happy to be one of the captains, but we have a lot of leaders and everyone helps each other in the dressing room.”

Coady is held in very high regard by Neves as well.

“Of course, we see Conor on the pitch and he’s amazing,” said Neves. “I’ve never played with a player like him. Well, actually, when I played in the Portugal squad when I was young, we had a player like him that was always talking and helping the team. That was Ruben Dias, who is in Manchester City now.

“So, he’s the second centre-half I’ve played with who talks and helps the team that much. Conor always give us the best instructions to do our best on the pitch.”

In the Championship, while the humble Neves would not say so himself, he was an obvious cut above.

His magical volley against Derby – which he admits is his best goal in gold and black – was a true ‘I was there moment’ for supporters.

Since then, Neves has helped Wolves achieve back-to-back seventh-placed finishes in the Premier League along with runs to the FA Cup semi-finals and Europa League quarter-finals.

This season has proved more challenging for Nuno’s men but, on the whole, his and the team’s progress in four years has been remarkable. The Championship triumph will always hold a special place in his heart, too.

“Of course. It’s been a beautiful journey. I’m really happy on what we’ve achieved on that journey,” said Neves.

“I look back on the Championship and think that will always be one of my favourite years ever, in my career.

Neves' volley against Derby was a truly special moment (AMA)

“It was a fantastic season and I enjoyed that so much. I think everyone in the club did as it was almost a perfect season.

“I always say to all my friends that the Championship is one of the most competitive and beautiful leagues we have in the world. I’m sure of that.

“That’s why I enjoyed playing in the Championship so much. It was amazing. If something goes on in my career and I need to chose between the Championship and a lot of other countries to play in the first league, I think I’d choose Championship.”

An old adage is that time flies when you are having fun, and Neves fully agrees.

“It’s gone really quick, to be honest. When I came here, in the first month, in August, I had my first child. And now I have three already,” he added.

“That’s one of the reasons I see the time going really fast. We started in the Championship, then straight away to the Premier League, and then straight away to the Europa League.

“This season has not been the same, but we still have time and we are working really well to achieve good things again.

“So, I think it’s been really good to be here, to play here, and I hope we can achieve something else as the club deserves it – and for all the work we’ve been doing these seasons.”

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News