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Nelson Semedo interview: Wolves wing-back on chasing Europe under Gary O’Neil and why he loves this team

Speaking to Sky Sports, Nelson Semedo explains what makes Gary O’Neil so good for Wolves and why he loves his team right now as the club chase an unlikely European qualification berth. "I think it is the best season that I am doing," he says…

Wolves' Nelson Semedo
Image: Wolves' Nelson Semedo is enjoying a successful season under Gary O'Neil

When Wolves committed to pay Barcelona as much as £36.8m for Nelson Semedo in 2020, the Portugal full-back had some work to do to prove his worth. Almost four years and 119 Premier League appearances later, Semedo's value to his team is clear.

Now 30, he is enjoying the best form of his Wolves career. An energetic presence up and down the right touchline for Gary O'Neil's team, Semedo has always had the speed and the excellent close control, but experience has added reliability to his game.

Speaking to Sky Sports inside the club museum at Molineux, he agrees that this is the best that supporters have seen of him in old gold and black. "I think that the team performance helps a lot. We are doing really well," Semedo explains.

"But, honestly, I think it is the best season that I am doing - and also the team is doing - since I am here. As you can see, it is not like one or two players are doing well. All the players are doing well. Even the players who are coming from the bench are responding."

Expectations were not high at the start of the season. Julen Lopetegui's departure on the eve of the season had many tipping Wolves for relegation amid an exodus of high-profile players as the club sought to abide by profit and sustainability regulations.

"The start was not good," acknowledges Semedo. "We did not have the time to work in pre-season. He came three or four days before the Premier League started so obviously we had a lot to work on. But we are doing well now and the team is confident."

Four defeats from the first five games reflected that early upheaval but only five teams have picked up more points than Wolves since late September. "We are working a lot during the week and putting a lot of trust in what we are doing. This is the result."

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O'Neil has been frank about his own appointment, understanding that some might have been underwhelmed but what of the players? Semedo was a title winner at Benfica and Barcelona. He might have been entitled to wonder. Instead, the relationship is strong.

"It is very easy to understand the information he gives us," he says.

"Obviously, we have meetings but not that many. I also think Gary still has that professional player mentality so he thinks a little bit like us. He knows how to explain things to us and help us to improve on the things he wants us to improve. That is the main thing.

"We have our tactics. But he gives me the freedom to do whatever I want - with responsibility, of course. He trusts me a lot. Not only me but every player on the team. That is very important. It gives you, like, a boost to keep improving and improving."

Nelson Semedo's heatmap and passing sonar for Wolves this season
Image: Semedo's heatmap and passing sonar for Wolves this season

The return of Matt Doherty to Wolves, the man he ostensibly replaced when the Republic of Ireland international departed for Tottenham, has put the spotlight on that switch all those years ago. But there is no question of Semedo being ousted. That tells a tale.

His role in the team has not altered too dramatically either, having been a mainstay under four consecutive Wolves managers now. His one-on-one defending can be impressive - just ask Heung-Min Son - and he ranks third for possession won in the defensive third.

Nelson Semedo has won possession 86 times in the defensive third
Image: He has won possession 86 times in the defensive third of the pitch for Wolves

Semedo rarely makes headlines with goals and assists, but while finishing and crossing are not his biggest strengths, his contribution to the team can be seen in other ways. That ability to receive the ball in tight spaces and run with it in bigger ones is key for Wolves.

When Bruno Lage was in charge, he would keep a record of the five-a-side wins for each player in the squad. It was Semedo, with that Barcelona background, all those rondos, who came out on top ahead of Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves and the rest.

Couple that with his ball carrying and his importance should not be underestimated. In total, Semedo has carried the ball over 4.2 kilometres in the Premier League this season. That is far more than any other full-back or wing-back in the competition.

Physically, there is no denying that he is still at the peak of his powers. Having been clocked at 35.9 kilometres per hour, he is the fastest man over 30 years old in the Premier League. Kyle Walker is next on that list with a top speed of 35.3 kilometres per hour.

All of which is playing its part in Wolves' revival under O'Neil. In beating Sheffield United at Molineux on Sunday, the supporters in the South Bank started singing songs of Europe as they moved up to eighth in the Premier League table. They are dreaming of more.

"It is a good dream for all of us but I think we have to go game by game," says Semedo. "When we finish the season, we want to be the highest we can be but if we start thinking Europe is right here, we would lose focus and that would be bad for us."

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Tottenham and Wolves

When he speaks of "another tough game away to Newcastle" and says "we have to keep going like this", talking warmly of the developing talents around him and the possibilities that lie ahead, Semedo sounds like a leader. That is what he has become.

Toti Gomes jokes of seeing Semedo on television when he himself was just a teenage boy watching games with his father. "It makes me sound old," laughs Semedo. But he is relishing his role. A winner elsewhere, new bonds are being formed in Wolverhampton.

"I love this team because there is a mix of experienced players and young players. The young players want to achieve a lot as well. We have this mix of ages but we have the same objectives. I think this makes us stronger. We will work to get there."

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