Wolverhampton Wanderers have had a fantastic start to their Premier League season, finding themselves in 7th place after 8 matches. The newly promoted side have only scored 9 goals so far, but they have been kept afloat by only conceding 6 goals. A key player in Wolves’ rock solid defence has been their star goalkeeper, Rui Patricio.
The Portuguese shot stopper joined the club in the summer on a four-year deal after terminating his own contract with Sporting following a violent attack from their supporters.
Since joining the English side, he has made 29 saves and kept 4 clean sheets in 8 appearances, giving his team positive results when they lack goals at times.
Patricio saw his stock rise significantly due to some phenomenal Euro 2016 performances that saw Portugal crowned champions after defeating hosts France in the final.
But the 30-year-old has been a crucial part of Sporting’s team for the past ten years, winning 3 trophies with the club as a starting goalkeeper.
Here we’ll take a look at Patricio’s career up to this point and demonstrate his value to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Working His Way to the Top
Patricio had spent almost his entire career with Sporting in Portugal. He was signed to the club’s youth academy at the tender age of 12. His club debut came in November of 2006 in a match where he saved a late-game penalty to secure a 1-0 win for Sporting.
The following year, he had nailed down a starting role over new signing Vladimir Stojković and club veteran Tiago. His first season saw Patricio feature 20 times in the league as Sporting finished in 2nd place behind Porto. He also made his Champions League debut, although it was in a 2-1 loss to Manchester United.
Fast forward to 2014 and Patricio was a constant starter for Sporting, although he was never able to win the league with the club. However, in October of that year, he saved a Jackson Martinez penalty in the Portuguese Cup to maintain a 2-1 lead for his side. Sporting eventually won 3-1 to eliminate Porto and win the competition that year.
Success with Portugal… Eventually
Rui Patricio earned his first call-up to the Portuguese national team in 2008 but did not feature for the team until 2010. He became a starter for Euro 2012 where Portugal were eliminated in the semi-finals. He conceded 4 goals in 5 matches during the competition.
Patricio made his World Cup debut in 2014 during Portugal’s demoralizing 4-0 defeat to eventual champions Germany. He missed the rest of the tournament due to injury and Portugal faced elimination in the group stage.
His long wait for international success came to an end in 2016. In particular, the goalkeeper shined against Poland in the quarterfinals. He saved Jakub Błaszczykowski’s penalty in a penalty shootout as Portugal won 5-3. He continued to keep Portugal’s ridiculously strong defense intact during the final against France with a performance that was not only good enough to give his team the win, but also to place him amongst the 30 players nominated for the Ballon d’Or that year.
Patricio also started for Portugal at the 2018 World Cup, but Portugal as a whole did nothing special at the tournament and were knocked out in the Round of 16 against Uruguay.
Things at Sporting Turn Sour
The catalyst for Patricio’s exit from Sporting occurred on May 15, 2018. A group of 50 supporters descended on the Sporting training ground, teeming with anger and frustration over their club’s 3rd place finish in the league, missing out on Champions League qualification.
Security was unable to stop the mob of masked men from forcing their way into the locker room, where they shouted threats to kill the players and coaching staff and savagely attacked them. The incident left several coaches and players, Patricio included, with injuries and psychological damage.
As a response to the brutal attack, Patricio and several of his Sporting teammates requested to have their contracts terminated so that they could explore opportunities away from the turmoil at their club. Once the deed was done, Patricio finalized his 4-year deal with Wolves on June 18.
Wonderful Times at Wolves
Since the start of the Premier League season, Patricio has put in game-saving performances to keep his team afloat in the table despite their relatively low goal-scoring output.
Although Wolves went winless in their first 3 games of the season, those results included a 2-2 draw against a stubborn Everton side and an impressive 1-1 draw with defending champions Manchester City. That match in particular saw Patricio make a number of spectacular saves to deny the likes of Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero.
In the next 5 matches, Wolves conceded only one goal, in a 1-1 draw away to Manchester United. They beat West Ham, Burnley, Southampton, and Crystal Palace to soar up the table to 7th place. The ability of Wolves to string those results together says a lot about their resilience, and Patricio’s experience and maturity at the back is a major contributing factor.
Nuno Espirito Santo has acquired a number of big names in the summer, but Patricio along with his Portuguese compatriot Joao Moutinho have been by far the most influential. It was a magnificent piece of business from Wolves and I’m certain that Sporting will be ruing their decision to unsettle him after witnessing his superb performances in the Premier League.
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