What has made Raul Jimenez one of Europe’s most wanted strikers?
Harry Howes | 5 May 2020
The Wolves star has been linked with a big-money move
Raul Jimenez. Marcus Rashford. Jamie Vardy. Three great strikers, all enjoying great campaigns.
But of the trio, only Jimenez has scored more than 20 goals in all competitions so far this season. In fact, he’s scored 22, including 13 in the Premier League, and while his impressive form may have gone under some radars, several European heavyweights have been keeping an eye on him.
Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona have all been linked with a move for the Mexican frontman recently, leaving Wolves fans nervously looking over their shoulders.
Nobody quite knows when football will return and what impact it will have on the transfer market, but interest in Jimenez is inevitable and we’ve taken a look at what all the fuss is about.
Wolves hot streak
After winning promotion to the Premier League, Wolves snapped up Jimenez on loan from Benfica at the start of last season. The signing hardly seemed inspiring at the time – he’d scored 22 league goals in his previous four seasons, including a dismal spell at Atletico Madrid.
Yet Jimenez more than proved his doubters wrong, scoring 17 times in all competitions as Wolves secured a Europa League spot and proceeded to smash their transfer record to make the striker’s stay at Molineux permanent.
The 29-year-old has gone from strength to strength this season, adding 10 assists to his 22 goals and developing a classic ‘big man little man’ strike partnership with Diogo Jota.
Back to basics
In a league dominated by the likes of Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah, who are naturally more agile and want the ball at their feet, it’s refreshing that Jimenez is able to brush shoulders with the elite despite being more of a traditional target man.
Preferring to wrestle with centre-backs and get on the end of crosses than to beat his man and smash one in from distance, Jimenez is a throwback and his physicality and intelligence makes him the perfect foil for his Wolves team-mates.
Despite being a natural goalscorer, he also possesses the qualities that often go unnoticed. His hold-up play, aerial presence and dummy runs have seen him turn provider as well, contributing to Jota’s return of 15 goals.
But that’s not to say his physicality is where his only attributes lie – far from it. He’s mobile, can finish with both feet and has a delicate first touch to complement his vision and ability to find a team-mate.
In an era where strikers need to have it all, he’s near enough an all-rounder and if he were five years younger, he’d be one of the most sought-after players in Europe. Jimenez also boasts a proclivity for scoring crucial goals, with his decisive strikes earning Wolves 15 points this season, propelling them to sixth place in the Premier League.
Big fish in a small pond?
Whenever a striker makes the step up to a bigger club, where the pressure to perform and the expectation from fans is magnified, there are always question marks about whether they can handle it.
Luka Jovic scored for fun at Eintracht Frankfurt last season but has struggled to adapt at Real Madrid. Yet Sadio Mane has gone from a promising star at Southampton to one of the best players in the world at Liverpool.
Whether Jimenez has reached his ceiling at Wolves or whether he can replicate his form, and even improve on it, at a team chasing league titles and European glory remains to be seen. At 29, he’s likely already experienced his peak but for a player whose style doesn’t rely on pace it shouldn’t be a problem for him to continue performing at the top level for years to come.
Without question he’s developed into one of the Premier League’s deadliest strikers while at Wolves and there’s every chance he’d be able to cope if United or Real came knocking. But with Wolves currently just two points off a Champions League spot, he may fancy his chances at continuing his project and establishing the Midlands side as a genuine contender, rather than jumping ship at the first opportunity.
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