Bruno Lage is approaching to become Wolves’ new manager – and the club’s supporters hope he is able to build on Nuno Espirito Santo’s work.
Sports post revealed in April that, in a shocking turn of events, Wolves was preparing for life after Nuno, and that Lage was on the shortlist of names to replace him.
It now looks like he’s gotten the nod from the hierarchy and judging by his track record, the appointment seems very shrewd indeed.
Bruno Lage is expected to be officially revealed as Wolves’ new manager in the coming days dagen
Lage flew into England to hold talks with Wolves chairman Jeff Shi and it is only a matter of days before an official announcement is made.
Even complications in obtaining a work permit, a process tightened by post-Brexit rules, could not derail recruitment.
And with a hearing giving Lage the green light to take the job, Wolves have their man down. But what should they expect from him?
Nuno Espirito Santo left Molineux at the end of the season after a 13th place
Previously he was an assistant to Carlos Carvalhal at Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea, and his most recent role was at Benfica, where he won the title in 2019.
A promising and varied story. As a result of his past successes and desire for fast, attacking football, he will be showered with praise at Wolves.
Lage started making waves in the coaching world in 2004 with the youth ranks of Benfica. In fact, the 45-year-old took charge of each of the age groups in the academy and enjoyed great success.
His job was made easier by the likes of Joao Felix, Ruben Dias and Gedson Fernandes who kept an eye on the first team, admittedly, but Lage performed brilliantly.
Lage made his name in management at Benfica and is now ready for his next challenge
However, it would be some time before he made the move to management, and Lage first accepted a number 2 position under Carvalhal.
When Carvalhal took charge of Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship, he brought Lage into his set-up. The coaching team enjoyed a fine two years, but both were marred by heartbreak in the play-off final at Wembley.
In their first season, they took sixth place, only to lose the showpiece, and claiming fourth place the following year marked a remarkable improvement.
But again, they came out second in the capital – and Lage found himself, along with Carvalhal, knocked out shortly after. Wednesday had dropped 15th and 11 points away from the top six.
His experience in England came shortly after with Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea (above)
Just four days later, the two joined Swansea in the Premier League and tried to keep the club there. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, they failed.
Huw Jenkins, the former Swansea chairman, revealed after the fall that it was best to ‘turn in a new direction’, which would leave Carvalhal and Lage out of a job again.
During their time working closely together, Lage assisted his compatriot by organizing and leading training sessions, conducting opposition analysis and also working on specific attack patterns.
Benfica later welcomed him as their reserve team coach with open arms, and Lage was able to start.
Lage was highly praised for the attacking football on display from his prolific team in Benfica
His big break came in January 2020, when Rui Vitoria got his marching orders with his charges fourth. Lage was promoted to the hot seat of the first team on a concierge basis.
He played his first game in the Primeira Liga against Rio Ave and took a 4-2 win at home. Just eight days later, Benfica decided to permanently appoint him as their head coach.
Despite the mountain they had to climb to take first place, Lage’s team overcame an eight point deficit and won a record 37th title.
A host of starlets who impressed during Lage’s time at the academy were promoted to him, and Joao Felix prospered to such an extent that Atletico Madrid shelled out £114 million to sign him.
Despite taking over when Benfica finished fourth, they ran home to take a record 37th title
This was no easy feat for Lage either. Benfica raced home to take the trophy, scoring goals for fun and entranced the crowd with displays pulsating with attacking exuberance.
The cold, hard numbers prove this. Of the 29 games he led from January to the end of the campaign, the club scored a total of 85 goals and conceded just 27. They have won 18 of their 19 league matches.
Benfica not only enjoyed the best second half of the season in league history, but also beat Porto, Braga and Sporting Lisbon away from home.
Building on Vitoria’s first work up to the holiday season, Lage’s side finished the year with 103 goals in the Primeira Liga – tying the all-time record. Along the way, they even beat a humiliating 10 past Nacional.
Lage left Benfica in July 2020 after a disastrous winless run, but is about to succeed Nuno soon
In the Europa League, Lage guided his players through two knockout rounds, with victories over Galatasaray and Dinamo Zagreb, but fell short on away goals in the quarter-finals against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Benfica then flew out of the trap domestically during Lage’s first full campaign in charge. Incredibly, between August and January, the champions won 18 of their first 19 league matches, with Porto’s only loss.
After winning the competition, they entered the group stage of the Champions League. But they eventually fell back into the Europa League, having finished third after a draw with Lyon, RB Leipzig and Zenit St Petersburg.
It all came crashing down for Lage just as the coronavirus pandemic was wreaking havoc on football around the world. A seven-game horror run with no wins on either side of the league suspension saw their title defense take a serious dent.
Wolves have a large number of players from Portugal on their team before Lage arrives
Lage was sacked after a 2-0 loss against Maratimo. A round of 32 exit from the Europa League just five months earlier saw his spell end on a disappointing note.
He will try to bounce back in the Midlands and largely has the resources to do just that. Unlike predecessor Nuno, Lage prefers a bolder approach to the forefoot, and the sheer number of goals scored by his Benfica teams underscores that.
Using a 4-4-1-1 system for most of his time in management, Lage is known for encouraging his players to move the ball around quickly, and technical quality midfielders are a must at this to make it work.
Wolves, of course, are blessed with the kind of stars that Lage will try to mold into high flyers. Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Pedro Neto are among a large group of stars from Portugal who will help him feel at home.
Lage hopes to lead his new team back to the European spots after a bad campaign
Nuno left by ‘mutual agreement’ after a 13th-place finish and a frustrating form marred his last season at the helm, and Lage will aim to go straight for the Europa League spots in his first year.
He is a client of Jorge Mendes, who is known to be close to chairman Shi and also represents a number of Wolves players, and has wanted to play a part in England for some time.
Now that his wish has finally been granted, it’s time for him to put on a show. Let’s see what he can do.