The role of the wing-back is a difficult one to fill; not only is it one of the lesser populated positions to recruit for, but it demands a tremendous effort from those who do play it.
While wing-back formations fall in and out of favour in world football, it has become the go-to for Nuno Espirito Santo at Wolves. The Portuguese head coach has stuck by the philosophy ever since it earned his side promotion to the Premier League in 2017, and rightly so, as the Wanderers continue to impress.
However, it’s no secret that they do lack quality in depth in wing-back options. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 summer transfer window due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wolves should be looking to bolster their options on the flanks.
Here’s who they should look to snap up…
The Portuguese full back is, on paper, the ideal candidate Wolves. To a tee.
Signing for Manchester United as a highly rated 19-year-old in 2018, with then-head coach Jose Mourinho heaping praise on his new defender, citing him as one of the best in Europe for his age.
However, injuries and the signing of Aaron Wan-Bissaka last summer has made opportunities for gametime limited for Dalot, now 21, and it is reported that clubs are ready to swoop in and snatch him up.
With him being able to operate on both sides of the defence, and capable of playing in a more advanced position as a right-midfielder, it’s no surprise that he makes this list. Dalot would be the perfect signing for Wolves, and would provide Nuno’s team with another dimension of quality and sharpness in both attack and defence.
Despite interest from elsewhere, there is no reason why the Wanderers couldn’t conclude a deal for the out of favour Portugal Under-21 international.
Potential Price: £28m-35m
At just 20 years old, Max Aarons would be a bit of a statement signing from Wolves.
With the Wanderers showing a commitment to recruiting young talent in recent times, Aarons would slot in perfectly on the right flank. He broke into the Norwich first team during their Championship-winning 2018/19 season, and has continued to impress despite the Canaries’ struggles in the top flight.
Aarons has an impressive attacking ability and works well supporting the attack from full back. There are obvious inconsistencies to his game, but at 20, this is to be expected and the chance to flourish in a new role at wing back could iron those out with experience.
He is also capable of operating on both flanks and is another versatile option for Nuno, who would undoubtedly get the best out of him by deploying him as a wing-back.
With Norwich’s Premier League status looking uncertain, Aarons could be one of a few players who jump ship and earn another chance with a top flight club. Wolves should do everything they can to give him that chance.
Potential Price: £18m-30m
Moving onto the left side of the pitch, 23-year-old Ryan Manning was subject to interest from Wolves in January.
The Irishman, currently of QPR, is another versatile option and can play at both left wing-back and in midfield.
His transition to left wing-back this season has been impressive, with Manning slotting into the challenging role with ease. So far, he’s managed 35 appearances in all competitions, scoring three and assisting five. And while midfielders are often easy to recruit, a solid wing back for a good price is like gold dust.
Manning certainly wouldn’t be the finished article, but again is another investment for the future and could grow into the role at Molineux. Available for a much more reasonable price than Aarons and Dalot, this one makes a lot of sense.
Potential Price: £5m-10m
The 23-year-old Spaniard has had an odd career thus far. After impressing at youth level and on loan for Manchester City in his first spell, he was sold to PSV in 2018. However, an impressive season in the Netherlands prompted City to buy their academy product back, only for him to be shipped out on loan once more, moving to RB Leipzig in January this year.
Operating as a left-back, Angelino impressed in the Eredivisie, where he managed one goal and 12 assists from defence in all competitions, during his one season in Eindhoven.
A loan move to RB Leipzig has again revitalised Angelino, where he has quickly become a core member of the first-team. If there’s anywhere for him to develop at a high level currently, Leipzig is the answer.
He again could be the answer to Wolves’ inconsistencies on the left flank, with his attacking traits and equally sound passing abilities proving tempting. Wolves might have an issue prying him away from a permanent deal in Germany, but should they secure his services, there is no doubt that he can become a mainstay on the left hand side with some regular Premier League minutes.
Potential Price: £17m-25m