Raul Jimenez: Get the inside track on Wolves' new striker
Wolves have brought in Raul Jimenez on a season-long loan from Benfica, get an insider's take on the new signing here.
We spoke with Nathan Motz, co-author of the book 'A Journey through Portuguese Football', freelance writer Rui Miguel Martins, and Portuguese football writer Jan Hagen, to get a proper look at the loanee.
What kind of player can Wolves fans expect in Jimenez? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Motz: He was an impact sub throughout his time at Benfica and has been held out of the starting lineup due to Jonas' extraordinary form (he scored 37 goals last season).
He's a willing runner and a great focal point for crosses.
Jota, Cavaleiro, Costa, Neves, and others will enjoy having a classic target man.
Like any other traditional number nine, he won't offer as much in build-up play or passing exchanges emanating from midfield.
He's a finisher and will prefer to keep the opposition back four honest by playing on the shoulder of the last defender.
Martins: I would describe Jimenez as a roaming centre-forward. He moves up to midfield to help with transitions.
He covers a lot of ground and works hard for his teammates.
But, his greatest weakness is that he just can't put together a solid 90 minutes.
For that reason, he has been primarily used as a supersub at Benfica. And he has scored some timely goals for them.
Hagen: Raúl Jiménez is a quick and strong striker, who can be a threat on and off the ground.
Raúl works hard for his team and he won’t give the opponents’ defenders much peace, but the Mexican isn’t someone who is capable of creating much on his own.
He’s a great finisher, but for Wolves to get the most out of Raúl, they will need to consistently provide him service upfront.
We've seen him come off the bench a fair bit through his career, do you think he can cut it as a starting striker?
Motz: Admittedly he isn't a "do-it-all" type of striker.
He's a close quarters finisher for the most part, but that isn't to say he won't play well when surrounded with the quality of players that Wolves are assembling together.
Provide him good service and he'll score goals.
Martins: I honestly don't believe he will be a proven starter in a league like the Premier League.
Hagen: I suspect Raúl might be used in a similar way at Wolverhampton as he has been at Benfica, like a rotation alternative and a supersub.
I don’t believe Wolves will go into their first season back in the Premier League with the Mexican as their main man upfront, but he’s more than capable to be a very useful number two.
If Raúl indeed is to be Wolves’ starting striker this season, I’m sure he will do decently enough, but I wouldn’t expect him to score more than 12-15 goals in all competitions throughout the season.
Why has he been forced to come off the bench so much over recent seasons?
Motz: One person - Jonas.
For those who don't follow Portuguese football, the man has been simply extraordinary, scoring 34 goals in 30 league matches last season.
He also suffered through injuries in 2016/17 and lost his place to Kostas Mitroglou, a Greek striker who also had an extraordinary run at Benfica.
Martins: He struggles to put together a solid 90 minutes. He often looks confused when he starts. And it is not limited to his time at Benfica.
I've watched him play for Mexico a few times and he has been largely anonymous. He is far more effective in a half-hour role when his team need a goal.
Hagen: The first couple of seasons Raúl fought with more prolific strikers such as Kostas Mitroglou and Jonas, who has an insane scoring record for Benfica, for a place upfront, which saw his chances on the pitch being limited.
He did score goals that probably settled the championship in Benfica’s favour during the 2016/17 season, being the Lisbon side’s saving angle from the bench time and time again.
During this season and following a terrible start to the 2017/18 campaign, Benfica manager Rui Vitória changed from his usual attacking 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3.
Although Kostas Mitroglou was sold to Marseille last summer, Jonas basically carried the whole Benfica team on his shoulders, once again leaving Raúl Jiménez with limited playing time.
He did however play a crucial part in Benfica eventually securing a Champions League spot for next season, providing several decisive goals and assists, mostly from the bench, in the later stages of the campaign.
He's obviously done well at Benfica, but do you think he has the quality to cut it in the Premier League?
Motz: Always tough to answer that question, but as I said before I think he's a great focal point for the creative players that Wolves have in their squad.
Premier League clubs need options and he will allow Nuno some tactical flexibility.
Also think Diogo Jota will relish the space afforded to him as Raul distracts the opposition centre-backs.
Martins: No, I don't. And I see this as a chance for Benfica to recover at least some of the money they paid for him.
Depending on what source you believe, Benfica paid a good amount of money for him and he has never really lived up to expectations.
In fact, they tied to offload him to a Chinese club in January 2017 but he nixed the deal.
Hagen: His minutes per goal involvement (goal or assist) in the Portuguese league (every 81st minute this season, every 98th minute in total over three seasons) and his ability to stay calm and score decisive goals suggests that he's got plenty of quality.
Whether or not that’s enough quality to cut it in the English top flight remains to be seen, but personally I believe he can be an useful addition to Wolverhampton’s Premier League squad.
There's a £30m option for Wolves to buy Jimenez if he impresses on-loan, do you think he's worth that kind of cash?
Motz: Right now? No.
Mendes is the super-agent after all, but Jimenez has always looked like the type of player who, given enough chances, could become quite special.
Martins: No. I would not pay half that amount for a 27-year-old striker who has never lived up to expectations.
Hagen: For that kind of money you will expect a starting striker capable of scoring 18-20 goals a season.
If Raúl Jiménez provides that, I’m sure Wolverhampton would take advantage of the €38m option to buy.
At the moment, based on what he has showed with Benfica, I would be surprised to see that happening.
A loan deal seems like a reasonable move for all parties.
With Benfica already having spent serious cash on Nicolás Castillo and Facundo Ferreyra (free transfer, but got paid a significant sign-on-fee) this summer, and with Jonas still keeping up his impressive goal scoring record this season, there was simply no space for Raúl.
At €21.8m, the Mexican is the most expensive player in Benfica’s history and he was kind of a prestige project for president Luís Filipe Vieira, claiming a couple of years ago that Raúl Jiménez would prove to be the biggest sale, not only in Benfica’s history, but in the history of Portuguese football.
The €60m fee Porto received for Hulk as he joined Zenit in 2012 doesn’t seem like a realistic value for Raúl Jíménez at this time.
Benfica are now hoping they won’t have to take a loss on their initial investment on the 27-year-old striker.
With this loan, Wolves get an useful addition to their team, Raúl Jiménez will probably get more minutes on the pitch and Benfica will put the Mexican striker on display in the biggest league in the world, setting themselves up for a future cash-in. Win-win-win.
Nuno Espirito Santo obviously enjoys playing quite an attractive style of football at Wolves, do you think Jimenez would suit that kind of play?
Motz: He's a very direct player should keep the pitch open by working the channels and being a good focal point for crosses.
The midfield quality that Wolves have is going to ensure a forward-thinking strategy independent of Raul or whichever striker they implement at the top of the formation.
But every team needs a cold-hearted finisher, either as a starter or impact sub, to bury the dagger in stoppage time of a difficult match.
I think Jimenez could be that type of player for Wolves.
Martins: It's difficult to answer that. Nuno knows Jimenez very well from his time at Porto. And it's important to remember that they have the same agent in Jorge Mendes.
It is possible that Nuno has designs for Jimenez. But, it's also possible that Wolves could be taking Benfica's problem.
Benfica has recently signed two strikers which leads me to believe that they are happy to say goodbye to Jimenez.
Hagen: Although he's probably got the height and physique for it, Raúl Jiménez isn’t your typical hold-up striker.
He’s more of a poacher as he’s lethal inside the box and excellent at terrorizing the opponents with his hard-working and energetic style.
In addition to being an excellent penalty executer (19 goals from 19 penalties in his total career), the Mexican’s pace also makes him a dangerous man on the counter.
If you were to compare Jimenez to a current player in the Premier League or world football, who would you pick and why?
Motz: There aren't many traditional number nines left these days.
Lots of converted wingers or false nines out there right now.
I guess I'd say he's a bit like Alvaro Morata; he underachieves at times but is clearly talented and capable of delivering the goods if the right conditions are present around him.
Martins: Southampton's Shane Long comes to mind. They work hard and could play on the wing but goals aren't plentiful.
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