It’s beginning to feel like Vitinha could become this season’s Leander Dendoncker or Daniel Podence.
Both Dendoncker and Podence – now regular starters at Wolverhampton Wanderers – were given an extended acclimatisation period after arriving at Molineux.
Belgium international Dendoncker didn’t make his first Premier League start for Wolves until December 29, 2018 – despite joining from Anderlecht the previous August.
It was an almost identical story for Podence, with Nuno Espirito Santo finally bowing to supporters’ #FreePodence calls to hand him his first league start against Everton last July.
Podence was only a substitute in his first six months in the Premier League, albeit three of those were spent in lockdown after football was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.
The early signs are that Vitinha will need to show the same patience as the aforementioned duo. The midfielder, 20, was signed from FC Porto with the future in mind and Wolves have the option to purchase him permanently at the end of the season.
With Dendoncker, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho fighting it out for two spots in midfield, Vitinha hasn’t been needed in the opening weeks of the season. It has been a little surprising to see the Portuguese playmaker excluded from Wolves’ last four match day squads, though.
Two international fixtures with Portugal’s under-21s during the break, against Cyprus and the Netherlands, have given Vitinha a chance to remind Nuno of his qualities.
Wolves had 13 players away on international duty over the last two weeks but Nuno makes it his business to watch and analyse all of their performances with their respective countries.
Vitinha impressed in both matches as Portugal secured successive 2-1 victories. Playing as a number eight in a three-man midfield against Cyprus Vitinha completed 73 of his 80 passes (91%), recovered the ball on six occasions and succeeded in three of his attempted six dribbles.
It was a similar story, if not better, against the Netherlands as Vitinha hit the mark with all 48 of his passes, as per GoalPoint, and again showed his combative qualities to regain possession for his nation five times.
In both games Vitinha looked at ease advancing through the thirds with the ball at his feet, something those currently operating in Wolves’ midfield rarely do.
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He is the most attack-minded of Nuno’s midfield options, which could work in his favour with Dendoncker, Moutinho and Neves offering little goal threat. If you add up all of their Premier League goals since the start of 2018/19 it only totals 14 from a combined 228 appearances.
Interestingly, Vitinha has now made five appearances for his country since his last outing in old gold – a 21-minute cameo on that dark night at the London Stadium in September.
For that to change he needs to prove to Nuno that he can be a viable alternative to his three more experienced teammates – but his excellent week with Portugal will do his chances no harm at all.