Patience is a commodity that is rarely afforded in modern day football. A pressing need for success in the present rarely paves the way for a strategic plan for the future, and young talent can be stifled as a result. With Fábio Silva, however, the story should be very different, particularly considering he commanded a monstrous 40-million-euro price tag to be prised away from FC Porto this summer.
With such an astronomical fee for an unproven gem comes great expectations, and instant results are, perhaps unreasonably, expected as a result. The signing of Silva was always something of an investment from a Wolves perspective though, signing one of the most promising 18-year old’s in world football to lead the line over the years to come, and whether it takes two, three or even four seasons to reach the lofty heights expected of him, it should still see him return more than a decade worth of top-level football for the Molineux club – unless he gets sold for a healthy profit before that – and so, for 40 million euros, that suddenly paints the picture of a very shrewd acquisition.
But how has Fábio Silva settled into life in the English Premier League, and is he showing those signs of being the future star so many have expected him to become? Supporters have been a little divided on the subject, and with Wolves languishing in mid-table obscurity, well below optimistic pre-season expectations, finger-pointing is a more common occurrence than in previous campaigns, and the pressure on the shoulders of Fábio Silva has been well beyond what anyone would have envisaged.
Starting off the season as a bit-part player, typically given brief cameo appearances to ease him into life in the English game, it was difficult to assess Silva fairly, though he showed glimpses of promise and strong link-up play without ever being given sufficient time to make a serious impact on proceedings.
Jiménez out, Silva in
That all changed at the end of November though, when a serious head injury to former Benfica striker Raúl Jiménez thrust Fábio Silva into the limelight as he was tasked with taking on the mantle of starting striker in the absence of the beloved Mexican forward far earlier than anyone would have expected. It was a huge ask for an 18-year-old with minimal experience at senior level, and his sudden ascension to first-team regular was incredibly premature, and entirely unplanned, and coincided with a terrible run of form where Wolves earned just one win across 11 league matches.
Across that poor spell, there was inevitably more than a little bit of frustration from the Wolves fanbase directed in a small part at Fábio Silva, which could again be deemed an inevitable by-product of the incessant need for immediate success and a clear oversight of the numerous other young talents who have required several years of nurture before becoming the superstars they are today. And that frustration and impatience was certainly only reinforced, and heightened, as a direct result of Wolves’ lacklustre season overall. It ensured that some of the criticism Silva received was harsh and exaggerated, and the clear positives he demonstrated were frequently overlooked.
For a teenager, Fábio Silva has regularly looked encouragingly confident leading the line, seemingly self-assured in his abilities and not letting the pressure of the situation get to him all too often, while his ability to connect with those around him to forge attacking moves has at times been more than impressive. He has proven to have a strong understanding of the game as a result, with the attacking instincts of a potentially world-class striker already emanating from his game and he has clearly been making improvements with each passing game. His positional awareness, for example, has been a particular positive, regularly taking up threatening positions and being in the right place to cause the opposition backline serious problems. The issue has therefore been more with his end-product, which should only become more refined with continued exposure to first-team action, but that he is already making good decisions and showing great movement marks a natural-born talent. Nevertheless, two goals in 23 league outings is an unspectacular return averaging out as a goal every 405 minutes. His very well-taken effort versus Wolves’ arch-rivals West Brom has been his highlight, an excellent showing of strength followed by a well-placed first-time effort a glimpse of what he can do, though it was overshadowed by a catastrophic defeat.
José also struggles for goals
There’s a great argument that he should be playing more frequently than he currently is too. Realising that goals were looking increasingly hard to come by in the absence of Jiménez, Wolves dipped into the winter market to bring in a proven striker in Willian José from Real Sociedad on a loan deal until the end of the season, though he has failed to leave a mark at Wolves so far, unable to score in any of his 10 Wolves outings. Silva showed just as much, if not more, quality and goalscoring potential as José, and considering his youth and that he is permanently on the books of Wolverhampton Wanderers, he is not only deserving of another run in the starting XI, but it also seems more than logical to give it to him too.
Whether he will be worth the 40 million euros ventured likely cannot be fairly assessed for several years still – which will be a thought that frustrates many football fans. Due to the reactionary nature of a significant portion of sports fans in general, there is a desire for instant answers, a clear and definitive conclusion to be drawn at the earliest opportunity. But how many times have we seen opinions on players change drastically over the years? There are too many examples to count, but André Silva is one name that comes to mind. He’s had his doubters, he struggled during his time at AC Milan, but has been nothing short of sensational this campaign for Eintracht Frankfurt more than a couple of years on, and is in the conversation for currently being one of the best strikers in all of world football. To dismiss Fábio Silva’s obvious talent and potential at this stage of his career would therefore be a foolish manoeuvre, and he has shown some of the attributes that have earned him the moniker of wonderkid.
It hasn’t all been perfect, of course. He does still, understandably, appear lightweight to cope with the more physical defenders of the Premier League, and arriving in the English top flight with just 530-odd minutes of senior football in his home country does ensure he is under-prepared for this environment. However, perhaps the biggest compliment you can pay Silva is that he is often seemingly held to the same standard as his far more experienced counterparts. That he is falling short more often than not is understandable, but that people are being as critical of him as they would be a veteran of the game also shows that he is already held in high esteem. And now it is his task to continue working hard and show the incremental improvements to his game that he has been week on week.