In an exclusive interview, Francisco Trincao, Wolves' on-loan winger from Barcelona, discusses playing with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and why a lack of Premier League goals this season does not tell the whole story...
Sunday 13 March 2022 13:52, UK
Not many players get to play with both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Very few manage to do it before their 23rd birthday and only two have played for Wolves.
One of them is Francisco Trincao, who spent last season alongside Messi at Barcelona and more recently with Ronaldo for the Portuguese national team. Now at Molineux on loan from Barca, he is trying his best to take what he has learned from the two greats and implement it on the pitch himself.
"It's a lot of work, it's a lot of quality," he exclusively tells Sky Sports when asked to describe the Ronaldo-Messi experience. "It's really good to watch them play and I try to learn the maximum I can. They work a lot, people don't know how hard they work. It's the main thing that I learn from them."
Being a left-footed right winger at Barcelona, there was no-one better for Trincao to learn off last season than Messi. The pair played 34 matches together - totalling just over 900 minutes of action - in an invaluable experience for the Portuguese forward - before they both left the Nou Camp last summer.
"He was always giving me advice in my position," Trincao recalls. "To wait for the ball, to press here and the things I need to do in order to pass him the ball. The little things that you learn in football.
"He knows the game better than anyone and I'll listen to him and I'm trying to do the things I told him."
When asked to compare his former Barcelona team-mate to international team-mate Ronaldo, he says: "I think the biggest thing they have in common is that they want to win, every time and in everything."
For someone who has worked with the two greatest goalscorers of all-time, perhaps it is a surprise Trincao has failed to find the net for Wolves this season.
The 22-year-old has played in 20 Premier League games - starting 14 of them - but he is yet to score. This lack of fruitfulness in front of goal has resulted in Trincao being axed from Bruno Lage's starting line-up at Molineux.
Trincao's frustrations were summed up in Wolves' 4-0 victory over Watford on Thursday night. Four goals were scored, six attackers were used - but the Portugal international remained an unused substitute.
Some analysts will look at the young forward's goal record and be unsurprised he has been named on the bench for four out of Wolves' last five league games - especially as other forwards such as Hee-Chan Hwang, Raul Jimenez and Daniel Podence have been in and amongst the goals.
But a closer look at the statistics shows Trincao is actually excelling on the wing. He completes more sprints per game than any of his attacking rivals at Molineux - and creates higher xG opportunities than them too. Meanwhile, only Podence carries the ball further per game than the Portuguese winger in the Wolves squad.
With 10 games of this Premier League season remaining, time is running out for Trincao to make his debut Premier League campaign a memorable one. So how does he get his spot back?
"I'm working to do that," he says. "I'm doing my best for the coach to think that [I should play more]. It's his decision, I have to respect it. Of course, I think I deserve more and I'm trying to do that and show that every day.
"If you just look for the end product, maybe you can say that [we haven't seen the best of me]. But if you look at football in terms of the whole game, you can say I'm doing great things.
"But normally people look for just the end product. But I'm trying to improve on that because I know it will give me the tools to be better and make people look at me differently."
When pushed as to why he is not getting the goals this season, Trincao leans towards becoming more of a team player this season - but still insists he is showing the attacking quality required to start more for Wolves.
"Sometimes we have more pressure and I have to play as a third central midfielder," he says. "Sometimes I don't play so near to the goal so I'm more deep and playing for the team and not for the end product.
"Sometimes the game is different and I have to create more in the end product and I'm doing that. And I'm doing that in training. I just have to play and do that every game."
Barcelona forked out £26m to bring Trincao over from Braga last season - and when he arrived at the Nou Camp, he vowed to become a leader at the Catalans within five years. Even though he is now at Wolves on loan, is that still the dream?
"Of course!" he says. "What all players dream of is to win everything and it's the same. I want to win everything and be the best as possible. I'm here for that."
But with a £25m option-to-buy clause in his Wolves loan deal, could he see himself back at Molineux next season?
"I'm just focusing on the things I can control which is the present and I'm trying hard to give my best and that's all I'm thinking right now."
First task on the immediate agenda? Getting back in the Wolves team - starting with Sunday's trip to Everton.