Sporting sensation Pedro Goncalves took his tally to four goals in three Champions League games this season, with Wolves’ decision to sell the Portuguese international looking increasingly misguided
Pedro Goncalves’ Wolverhampton Wanderers career was ended with a short and sharp statement back in July 2019.
Having made just one senior appearance for the Midlands club, Wolves decided to cash in on the promising youngster, selling to newly promoted Portuguese club Famalicao.
It was a deal which barely made a ripple in England, but two-and-a-half years on, it threatens to be one of the more misguided decisions in recent history.
While Bruno Lage’s side scour Europe for a creative midfielder, Goncalves, or Pote as he is affectionately known is proving to be the exact player Wolves are lacking.
On Wednesday, the 23-year-old scored a Champions League brace against Borussia Dortmund, helping Sporting to knock out the German giants.
The double ensured that Pote joined Cristiano Ronaldo as the only Portuguese player to score two or more goals in back-to-back games in Europe’s elite competition.
In the immediate aftermath of his departure from Molineux there was confusion, that confusion has now turned to despair.
But how did Pote become the one that got away from Wolves and why did they allow him to leave in the first place?
“We let Pedro go but we put a sell-on that would protect us,” Wolves’ technical director Scott Sellars told BirminghamLive in 2020. “He’s done fantastically well. That’s one way of creating money so if they’re not quite good enough for Wolves or what Nuno wants, that’s not a negative, we’re still creating revenue for the club.
“The first thing I said to Jeff Shi [Wolves chairman] when Pedro left was, ‘We need a new astro-turf pitch, so can I have some money?’ He couldn’t really turn me down at that moment so he went, ‘Yeah, that’s fine’.
“We always want to improve our facilities and we always want to grow and get bigger, and I think we are. We can use that money to put back into the academy and spend it to recruit players.
“Long-term, I would hope that at some point if I wanted to do something to the academy, I would say to Jeff, ‘I want to do this to the academy, we’ve got this money because we sold this player or got a sell-on fee for this player’.
“I think that’s what Jeff wants to happen so we can be an independent part of the football club.”
Becoming a self-funded enterprise is an admirable ambition and one every Premier League club aspires to achieve, but swapping a player touted as the ‘next Bruno Fernandes ’ for a 4G pitch appears miscalculated at best.
Former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo never showed a great willingness to trust youth, preferring a squad more akin to a 5-a-side team, rather than one competing in the Europa League.
Sellars’ comments hint that Nuno didn’t truly rate Pote, instead rating the metronomic abilities of players like Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, or the workrate of someone like Leander Dendoncker.
But as Wolves laboured without the injured Raul Jimenez last term, a glance at the Portuguese Primeira Liga became increasingly painful.
Pedro Neto ended last season as top scorer at Molineux with five goals. Meanwhile, Goncalves plundered 23, winning the Golden Boot in Portuguese’s top flight.
His move to Sporting came after he guided Famalicao to a top-six finish in their first campaign back in the top-flight, with manager Joao Pedro Sousa fully aware of his abilities.
“When we brought him from Wolverhampton [in mid-2019] he was a player with almost no playing time,” Sousa told the BBC.
“He obviously wasn’t the footballer he is now, but he clearly understood the game and its different moments – something that makes a difference in high-level football.
“He had the chance to feature with me in a number of positions in midfield – as a double pivot, a winger and a number 10.”
Players capable of not only performing, but excelling in a number of midfield roles are like gold-dust, the type of player every Premier League club moves heaven and earth to sign.
Wolves protected themselves with a sell-on fee, but remuneration in the form of a new astroturf pitch is looking worse and worse with every passing day.
There is a strong chance Pote will return to England before long – both Liverpool and Manchester United have been heavily linked – and when he does, that new training pitch will represent one of the costliest in European football.