2024: The year of Pedro Neto?

A stat circulated online last month showing that Wolverhampton Wanderers winger Pedro Neto was having the best assists-per-minute season in Premier League history. Better than Manchester City man Kevin De Bruyne’s peak; better than Arsenal legend Thierry Henry – often considered the greatest player in modern English football.

Since then, Neto has scored against local rivals West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup, as well as finding the back of the Manchester United net in midweek during an enthralling seven-goal thriller at Molineux. As he attempts to put injury issues behind him, the Portuguese could be set for a career-defining year in 2024 for club and country.

Neto has long been regarded as one of the most exciting wingers in the Premier League, but physical afflictions blighted his progress for much of the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons. His international career has also suffered, with strong claims for places in Portugal’s Euro 2020 and World Cup 2022 squads scuppered by serious knee and ankle problems.

In the spring of 2021, Neto’s name was regularly featured in the transfer gossip columns, having spent two promising years with Wolves following a big-money move from Braga alongside countryman Bruno Jordão in 2019. However, serious damage to his knee cap during a game at Fulham led to ten months on the sidelines and subsequent setbacks saw Neto start just 18 Premier League games across two seasons.

The current campaign has not been without issues. A hamstring problem cost Neto two months during November and December this term, but overall there have been signs of the 23-year-old being back to his best. His seven assists in the league put him near the top of the charts despite missing two months of action, while the goal against United was further demonstration of his devastating efficiency on the counter attack.

Such has been Neto’s return to form, speculation has again been rising over the possibility of a move to a bigger club this summer. Both Arsenal and Liverpool are credited with interest, with the Gunners in particular regarded as long-standing admirers. Wolves showed loyalty to Neto with a contract renewal in 2022, but a significant offer would likely tempt the midlands side into parting with their prized asset.

On the international front, Neto’s demonstration of speed, skill, creativity and efficiency will have impressed Portugal boss Roberto Martinez, who twice called Neto up in September and October, issuing the wide man appearances in the Euro 2024 qualification victories at Slovakia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Having started the new year with conviction, Neto now looks ahead with endless possibilities based on three factors: 1. Staying fit 2. Finally making his mark with Portugal at the Euros 3. Earning the big move projected three years ago.

After plenty of testing times, 2024 could well be his year.

By @SeanGillen9