Raúl Jiménez could play against Leicester in Wolves’ opening Premier League match next Saturday and could be every bit as effective as he was before fracturing his skull nine months ago, according to his manager Bruno Lage.
Lage has admitted to being surprised at how well the striker has recovered from an injury that jeopardised his career. Jiménez sustained the injury in a collision with David Luiz during Wolves’ win at Arsenal in November. He played his first game since then three weeks ago in a friendly against Crewe. He then scored in a behind-closed-doors match against the Saudi side Al-Shabab, and last Saturday he netted in the friendly draw at Stoke.
In all those matches the 30-year-old wore the specially made headguard that he will wear throughout the season – essentially a headband with a slim metal plate protecting the site of the fracture.
Lage says Jiménez has shown no physical or psychological ill-effects from the injury, even competing for headers as willingly as ever.
“He can do everything,” said Lage. “It was a big surprise. It’s been a long process for him; I have just come towards the end of it. I feel he is ready. He is confident.”
While leaving the medical aspects of Jiménez’s recovery to the specialists, Lage has concentrated since his appointment in June on helping the player to regain match fitness and belief.
“I talked to Raúl on the first day,” he said. “The first thing to do was to give him a lot of confidence. Strikers always need to score goals to feel comfortable. With goals, they start to believe they are coming back and, in his case, getting over what happened. But I said: ‘Don’t worry about the goals, because what you give the club when you are defending is so much, and the goals will come.’ And they came … I see he is happy in training – he works for the team both in defence and offensive situations.”
Lage said Jiménez was the ideal striker for the way he wants Wolves to play and expressed delight at linking up with a player who has thrived at Molineux since arriving from Benfica shortly before Lage took charge of the Portuguese club in 2019.
“I remember when I was at Benfica and we sold João Félix [to Atlético Madrid], I created a profile for a [replacement] striker. [The director of football] Rui Costa said: ‘The guy you want was here – but we sold him to Wolves.’ One and a half years later I’m here working with Raúl so I am very happy.
“With him and [Conor] Coady, you can see two guys that the younger players can look to as good examples and see that you can be a top player and also a top person.”