With Diogo Jota officially out of the Wolves door and on the books at Liverpool, Wanderers fans will naturally feel a little apprehensive about a future without the Portuguese winger.
Jota blossomed at Molineux and has been key to their recent ascent from the Championship into Premier League top half mainstays. He managed 44 goals and 19 assists from 131 games in the Wolves shirt and, at just 23, has shown signs of developing into a seriously solid winger under the correct management.
The natural reaction for Wolves would be to go out and splash the £41m transfer fee paid to them for Jota on a replacement. It’s not that easy, though, and with just under two weeks left of the transfer window, panic buying wouldn’t guarantee success.
Fortunately for Wolves, they’ve already signed his replacement for less than half the price. He also happens to be Portuguese, too. Obviously.
Daniel Podence’s move from Olympiacos to the Wanderers in January could quietly be seen as the Jota replacement that nobody quite realised was happening at the time. The 24-year-old shone in Greece and showed glimpses of what he was capable of last season, but now is his time to excel as the regular fixture in the starting XI who slots seamlessly into the Jota-shaped hole in Wolves’ front three.
Wolves signed Podence from the Greek champions for a fee of just £16.9m which is a steal for anyone these days, let alone someone with his talent. The tricky winger moved to Olympiacos for free from Sporting CP in 2018 following that infamous bust-up that saw Sporting’s players attacked by their own ‘supporters’.
He chipped in with 13 goals and 14 assists from 68 games with the Greek champions, quietly honing his craft as a skilful dribbler with a strong reading of play and eye for a key pass in the final third. He showed glimpses of what he could offer to Wolves following his January arrival, but the difficulties of a mid-season transfer, combined with a three month lockdown as a result of a pandemic, hindered his chances of truly breaking into the side and finding momentum.
Primarily a winger, Podence is right-footed but is comfortable on either side and can even play down the middle thanks to his ability to run at players and turn defenders inside out for fun. It’s this versatility in an attacking trio that makes him the perfect candidate to replace Jota seamlessly; the two are similar players, and Podence already possesses the ability and the confidence to make an impact on the Premier League.
He’s managed two assists from two starts at the beginning of the 2020/21 campaign, having been trusted to take the reins by head coach Nuno Espirito Santo. His performance against Manchester City in particular was impressive; Podence was a regular thorn in City’s side in the second half and earned an incredible assist for his efforts, constantly moving along their defensive line and running at the opposition with no fear. He’s proven to be a creative spark and a boundless energy source for Wolves, which is the exact kind of player needed for Nuno’s back three system to thrive.
If you can make Kevin De Bruyne look like an amateur, then you’ve all the potential in the world.
Podence has a big task on his hands coming into a side and replacing a fan favourite in Jota, and at times he’ll likely struggle with consistency. But patience and trust is the key with the winger; he gives the recruitment team at Wolves time to find a suitable, value for money option to strengthen the attack when the time is right. In the meantime, he has the chance to show the Premier League just how good he can be.
At 24 years old, there’s no better time for Wolves to pull the trigger on their hidden gem. Podence is versatile, direct, skilful and precise, which all points to him developing into a serious talent if Nuno can drill in the relentless work ethic needed to thrive in his setup.