Where next for Fábio Silva: The Portuguese wonderkid left to wander at Wolverhampton

Fábio Silva is likely to be on the move again this summer. At the age of just 21, the Wolverhampton Wanderers striker has already played for five clubs in five different countries, with the next step likely to take in a new 6th league according to his agent.

In many ways, Silva represents the classic case of money taking priority over football development. From his boyhood club FC Porto to an array of intermediaries, everyone filled their pockets on a talent which was undoubtedly dispatched to the bright lights of the Premier League far too soon in 2020.

Four years ago, with just 21 senior appearances and 3 goals under his belt at Estádio do Dragão, Silva found himself the subject of interest from Wolves. Conducted by the influential ‘super-agent’ Jorge Mendes, the English club decided to add the 18-year-old to their assemblage of Portuguese talent in an eye-watering €40m deal.

Silva, who won the UEFA Youth League with Porto in 2019, had played his part in helping the Dragons become Portuguese champions in 2020, during which he broke records by becoming the club’s youngest ever debutant in the league, youngest starter and youngest goal-scorer. However, there was just one full league appearance in Sérgio Conceição’s team and a mere 180 minutes in the top flight, leading to much surprise at the deal.

Many concluded Porto’s financial issues were a factor in the premature exit for the Gondomar native. Speaking to Spanish outlet Relevo earlier this month, Silva confirmed such suspicion, depicting a grim insight into the transfer. “I knew it wasn’t the time,” Silva said. “It wasn't my intention to go to Wolverhampton at that time, I wanted to stay at FC Porto for another year or two. I was almost forced.

“They told me that if I didn't go, they would force me to play for the B team and I wouldn't help the club because they were short on money. There was no escape. I was 18 years old and had finished my first full season, but I was only playing 15-20 minutes. I wanted to stay at my club to have a greater impact.

“I had other interested parties, but everything was focused on me signing with Wolves. More people were involved in this transfer. They put in more money, but in football things happen behind the scenes that you don't control. It ended up being better for everyone else than it was for me.”

There was a bright moment upon scoring his first league goal for Wolves via a penalty in December 2020, which made him the youngest Premier League scorer in the club’s history as well as the youngest ever Portuguese scorer in English league football. But overall Silva inevitably struggled with the demands of the wealthiest division in world football, scoring just four times in all competitions in his debut campaign.

Loans begin

By the end of his second term, during which he failed to score across 22 appearances, it was decided Silva would head out on loan. The first half of the 2022-23 season saw him join Belgians Anderlecht, before a mid-season switch to Dutch giants PSV. An impressive 16 goals for both clubs combined was a solid return for a 20-year-old learning his trade.

Wolves brought Silva back for the following season, but he was again shipped out on loan in January to Scotland with Rangers, where he featured regularly and produced 6 goals in 25 outings. Speaking to Italian outlet TuttoMercato this week, Silva’s agent Carlos Oliveira seemed unimpressed with his client’s treatment by Wolves.

“His season? The first half at Wolves wasn't the best, Fábio didn't play much. Wolverhampton had made us promises, so Fábio was willing to stay in the team, but then the promises that were made were broken. The second half of the season, however, was positive. Although he didn't play in his position, Fábio made himself available to the coach and the team, scoring goals and making assists. It was a learning experience, he learned about the game better and I'm sure it will be useful to him in the future.”

The future will involve another move, with The Athletic reporting that Wolves are prepared to satisfy the player’s desire to leave should a suitable offer arrive. There is believed to be interest from Spanish side Sevilla as well as Fiorentina and Bologna in Italy. According to Oliveira, settling at a club is needed for Silva to fulfil potential which he insists remains high.

“I believe it is essential that he manages to stabilise himself in a club where he feels the trust of the club and where he can have good playing time for at least two seasons in a row. He is still very young, he is 21 years old and has immense potential, he will have to work hard and stay focused on his goals. The striker is a particular role, many mature over time and patience is needed.

“We are prioritising the Spanish and Italian markets for next season. I believe that one of the two championships will be the next step for Fábio.

“Comparisons? I think he very much resembles Edinson Cavani or Diego Forlan. If he finds the right environment, in my opinion, when he is 24/25 years old he can become one of the best strikers in Europe."

By @SeanGillen9