On September 5th, 2020, Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers shattered their club record transfer with the signing of Portuguese talent Fábio Silva. Silva, a product of the famed FC Porto academy, was seen as a player with tremendous potential. Still, eyebrows were raised when Wolves paid £35 million to secure his services.
Silva undoubtedly had potential, but he had yet to really convert that into anything meaningful. At Porto, while he had done superbly at youth level, he had yet to leave his mark on the senior team. Granted, he was only 17, but three goals in 21 games isn’t really Premier League material. One of them also came in the Portuguese Cup against a non-league opponent, too.
Two years on, his career hasn’t really panned out. Silva recently said in an interview that he thinks people forget how young he is, causing debates as to his future with the club. All of this means that he has a massive, potentially career-deciding summer ahead of him.
Wolves Career (2020-Now)
Silva’s Wolves debut was less than ideal. Up against second-tier side Stoke City in the Carabao Cup, Silva played 90 scoreless minutes as Wolverhampton lost 1-0. Worse still, Silva took five shots yet only one ended up on target, and missed some big chances.
His first season didn’t ever really get off the ground. Silva finished the season with four goals in 36 games, with Wolves failing to win a single match that he scored in. Of course, it was Silva’s debut season and he was just 18, so patience was required. This season, however, he would have to start scoring.
Unfortunately for Silva, things took a turn for the worse. In 26 games, he failed to find the back of the net as Wolves brought in attacking reinforcements. Among them was Hwang Hee-Chan, a striker who took over for Silva as Wolves number two striker (behind Raúl Jimenez) and scored five times. Hwang’s loan from RB Leipzig will soon be made permanent, leaving Silva as the odd man out.
There’s a lot that has gone wrong in this deal. For a start, Silva was very young when he joined Wolves. For a young player, culture shock and adapting to a new league is a lot. Silva was born in Porto and played for their youth teams from 2010 to 2019 – with the exception of a two-year break playing for Benfica Lisbon. Most players wait until they’re slightly older to move abroad.
Wolverhampton also aren’t exactly heaven on Earth for a young attacker. This season they scored 38 goals, an average of one a game. Only three teams in the Premier League scored fewer goals. Last season they scored 36 goals, with only four teams scoring fewer.
Silva is also clearly playing with less confidence. Last season, he took 46 shots per FBref.com, with 16 of them being on target. That’s an accuracy percentage of 34.8%. This season, he took 19 shots with just five on target, an accuracy rate of 26.3%.
Silva’s strengths include his speed and knack for finding space, both of which are harder to utilize with the physicality of the Premier League. Finishing is not his biggest asset, and he may need to bulk up some to provide more of a threat in the box. However, Wolves should not even think about selling Silva.
At this stage, the forward still has a lot to offer and Wolves likely won’t get much if they decide to sell him. A loan move would suit him better, where he can develop his talents at a slightly less intense level. However, it’s tricky to determine where he would develop best.
He needs to be playing at a high level for a team he would actually play at. A move back to Porto seems unlikely, as his former club have seemingly moved on. If he were to return to Portugal, he could potentially be a good move for Sporting Lisbon, a Champions League side with several veteran strikers who could help Silva develop. Another Portuguese team could also work, with SC Braga playing Europa League next season but lacking a top tier striker.
A slightly more ambitious move would be VfB Stuttgart. It’s no secret that Stuttgart’s striker Sasa Kalajdzic has been subject to interest from other clubs, and he’s likely on the move this summer. Outside of him, Stuttgart have several strikers, but all of them have yet to leave much of an impact. The German side have developed Premier League loanees successfully in the past, so there’s no reason not to take a chance on Silva.
Silva has incredible potential, but it’s no secret that his move to England has been a disappointment so far. With the player falling out of favor, a change of scenery looks necessary, whether it be temporary or permanent. Hopefully, he can get his career back on track and eventually leave a mark on Wolves’ history.
Image Courtesy of Bex Walton, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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