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Neto making progress in his ambition to be the best

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Pedro Neto has surpassed Wolves' expectations. Photo: Andy Rain/PA

Pedro Neto has surpassed Wolves' expectations. Photo: Andy Rain/PA

Pedro Neto has surpassed Wolves' expectations. Photo: Andy Rain/PA

Shortly after he signed for Wolves in 2019, Pedro Neto used his first interview in his new home country to declare he was going to be the best player in the world.

At the time, it seemed a case of youthful exuberance getting the better of a talented but still largely unproven player. Two years on, and those words do not seem so misplaced.

In a difficult season, there is no doubt about who has been Wolves’ standout player, with Neto’s sublime performances in the absence of injured talisman Raul Jimenez not only helping keep his club clear of trouble, but also convincing onlookers in his native Portugal that he could be the heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Neto is level with Manchester City’s Phil Foden for goals and assists (nine), and ahead of another player his age in Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, producing an exquisite individual winner at Southampton on Sunday.

Capable of operating on the left or right of a forward three, Neto plays as if the ball is attached to his boots with string, creating havoc in defences with his direct running and trickery. The 20-year-old still lives with his parents in the city, but has taken even Wolves staff by surprise with his progress over the past 12 months. Rather ominously, Nuno Espirito Santo insists there is still far more to come.

“Pedro is giving a good response but I truly believe that he still has a long way to go on improving a lot of aspects of his game,” said the Wolves head coach. “He’s very young, very talented and there are a lot of things that he can improve. He knows, and we know, and we are on the journey to do so.

“He is committed to the process of learning and improving. His dedication makes me very pleased.”

Signed from Lazio in the summer of 2019, Neto already had a decent reputation in Portugal after breaking Ronaldo’s record as the country’s youngest goalscorer, aged 17 years and 67 days, with Braga.

His development with Wolves has been so quick that Nuno made the calculated gamble to sell Diogo Jota to Liverpool for £45m in September, due to the confidence the club had in Neto and Daniel Podence. It was that faith which led to Neto agreeing a new five-year contract in November, yet this season he has surpassed even Wolves’ expectations, rising to take responsibility in the prolonged absence of Jimenez.

Despite his growing reputation, he remains grounded. He is dropped off and picked up from training every day by his parents while, along with captain Conor Coady, he is renowned as one of the jokers in the squad. Neto is also close to Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves and the professionalism which radiates from the Portuguese contingent, which also includes Podence, Rui Patricio and Nelson Semedo, has rubbed off on him.

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Wolves v Leeds, BT Sport 1, 8.0

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