Willy Boly is no ordinary defender. “I like and want to have the ball,” he once said and this despite inhabiting a position where every second in possession is a risk.
It is fortuitous then that the 28-year-old French centre-back is so comfortable with the ball at his feet and for over two years now, since his £10m move to our shores from Porto in the summer of 2017, he has delighted with his rangy strides out from the back and array of passing.
It helps that in being part of a back-three so favoured by Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo he has insurance, particularly from Conor Coady. The rest though is on him.
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Not that Boly’s attributes are exclusively reserved for building from the back and retaining possession.
Defensively he has consistently been a colossus for Wanderers, benefiting from his height, pace and a fine positional reading to frustrate the very best strikers around.
In October he was a pivotal presence as Wolves emerged from Manchester City’s fortress with a 2-0 win while he is ranked by WhoScored as the second most impactful centre-back in the Premier League, second only to Liverpool’s Joel Matip.
Interestingly, Boly boasts a higher number of interceptions made with significantly more tackles completed than the Merseyside giant, further illustrating that first and foremost he is a solid, no-nonsense stopper.
With the added, precious ability to chip in with a goal or two along the way – Boly’s stoppage-time winner against Besiktas in the Europa League at the start of October kick-started a memorable week that ended with the shock defeat of City – it’s certainly no surprise to see transfer speculation arise in relation to the in-form star with Tottenham reputedly ‘keeping close tabs’ while Arsenal have been heavily linked in recent weeks and on both fronts this makes sense.
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Spurs’ defensive situation remains precarious with both Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen out of contract next season with each appearing to be seeking a future away from North London. As for the Gunners their recruitment of David Luiz looks more like a panic decision with every fresh mistake the unpredictable Brazilian makes while Sokratis and Mustafi are hardly the dependable types that lead a team to silverware.
So it’s to the Black Country that the north of the capital looks, enviously and with serious intent to lure down a player who has made more tackles, interceptions, dribbles, key passes, and clearances than either Luiz or Sokratis in 2019/20; an estimable talent who is ranked a staggering 98 places above Tottenham’s best-performing defender Alderweireld this season.
Will they be able to dislodge a key figure for a club who claimed only this week that their finances have ‘never been stronger’? That remains to be seen while further doubt comes from this undeniable truth: as Boly’s reputation continues to soar so too does his price-tag.