Incoming Wolverhampton Wanderers boss Julen Lopetegui has been tasked with getting the Midlands outfit back on track following what’s been a miserable start to the season, with the club currently rock-bottom of the table heading into the World Cup break.
The 56-year-old has been left to pick up the pieces following what was a dour end to his predecessor Bruno Lage’s time in charge, with the latter man having been relieved of his duties at the start of last month after a run on just one win in 15 Premier League games stretching back to the previous season.
Lage had arguably not helped himself following what was a head-scratching summer transfer window, having notably allowed the experienced trio of Willy Boly, Conor Coady and Romain Saiss to depart in one fell swoop, as well as midfielder Leander Dendoncker – among others.
Equally, in terms of incomings, the former Benfica boss notably missed out on potential key additions, with one such blunder having been the failure to land Portugal international, Joao Palhinha, with the midfielder having seemingly been a target for the Old Gold in the summer.
That price tag now appears a total “bargain” – as per journalist Joe Prince-Wright – with the former Sporting CP man having thrived for Marco Silva’s side thus far, notably leading the way in the league for tackles made (65).
That achievement is rather unsurprising for any who watched the 6 foot 3 ace in action during his side’s clash with Manchester United at the weekend, with the Lisbon-born star recording nine tackles – the most in a single top-flight game this season – in what was a truly fearsome midfield performance.
The towering colossus – who also ranks in the top 1% in Europe among those in his position for tackles made – has made an instant transition to life in English football, with the player’s showings thus far having even seen him dubbed “one of the signings of the season” by Sky Sports reporter, Jamie Weir.
A player who appears as “strong as an Ox” – in the words of Weir – Palhinha could well have had some extra steel to the Wolves midfield, with the club potentially in need of such a battling presence in their fight to end this current slump when club action resumes at the end of next month.
As it is, it will no doubt be a real source of frustration as far as those at Molineux are concerned to see their former target performing so impressively in west London, having been left to regret that transfer failure.