Raúl Jiménez Firing Wolves into Europe Again

How could Wolves possibly match the dizzy heights of a seventh-place finish on their return to the Premier League following a six-year absence, while having the rare luxury of juggling European football this season? The answer: Raúl Jiménez.

He is not the first Mexican scoring sensation to ply his trade in England. That honour goes to Javier Hernandez but, like his national teammate, Jiménez has proved he is no flash in the pan.

Signings that come into the Premier League straight from Portuguese football have to make a big step up. There is no doubt that Jiménez did that when on loan from Benfica last season and has done so again this term. The system and tactics employed by Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo are tailor-made for a striker like him. Jiménez doesn't wait for service. Feed him and he will score.

Jiménez has done something that no player at Molineux has managed in the Premier League era by grabbing 15 league goals. His top-flight haul is the best from someone in a Wolves shirt at this level since the days of John Richards. King John is second on the club's all-time top goalscorer list behind the iconic Steve Bull. Those are figures from Wolves teams of very different eras, but it is high praise indeed for Jiménez to be mentioned in the same breath.

Of course, there are just two seasons of form to judge him on. Richards and Bull stuck around for more than a decade each. While the latter's Wolves record of 306 goals (250 in the league) looks safe, things could have panned out very differently for Jiménez.

First brought to Europe by Diego Simeone in the summer of 2014 when Atletico Madrid were champions of Spain, he was lost in the shuffle. Big changes were made to the squad despite Atleti breaking up the El Clasico duopoly of city rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga. Out went David Villa and Diego Costa, while Jiménez had Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic for company as new teammates to impress Simeone. With such stiff competition, it's no wonder he didn't quite make the grade in Madrid.

At Benfica, Jiménez was in the shadow of the prolific forward Jonas. Despite his advancing years, the Brazilian scored goals for fun and won four consecutive Benfica Player of the Year awards. The Wolves loan was a punt, but boy did it pay off. They snuck into Europe and are odds-on to do so again in the latest football betting offered by bet365 at 2/7 for a top-six Premier League finish. 

Recent results have Wolves fans fantasising about the top four. It's nice to dream said West Midlands derby match-winner Leander Dendoncker but, with a player like Jiménez in their ranks, odds of 3/1 don't seem so long.

Wolves are still in Europe at the time of writing, holding the sliver of an away goal advantage in a finely balanced Europa League knockout tie with Greek side Olympiacos. Jiménez needs to keep on finding the net and not just on the domestic front either.

His contributions have been crucial in the 2019-20 season to date. However, for this season to enter legendary territory, he needs to continue his hot form.

Raúl Jiménez. 3/7/2020

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