Rui Patrício’s £9.8m transfer from Wolves to Roma comes with both clubs entering new eras. Patrício, 33, when he moved in July 2021, had been Wolves’ goalkeeper and an influential figure as they established themselves under Nuno Espírito Santo in the Premier League. Nuno then left to succeed José Mourinho at Tottenham shortly before Patrício’s departure for Roma, where none other than Mourinho, once Nuno’s manager at Porto, had been confirmed head coach.
Patrício, replaced by the £6.25m José Sá at Wolves, had made more than 450 first-team appearances for Sporting Lisbon before moving to England, winning seven pieces of silverware in his 12 years there, and it is further silverware he hopes will follow in Rome, under Mourinho. “In José Mourinho we are talking about one of the greatest coaches in the world,” he said. “I am excited to start working with him.”
Patrício has good reactions when keeping out close-range shots. He prefers to stay on his line rather than coming to claim crosses – both in open play and at set-pieces – and relies either on his centre-backs to clear the ball or his agility to stop shots that come his way (below). What he lacks in a willingness to claim deliveries he makes up for in the combination of his reactions, strong wrists and saving technique.
Despite that reluctance to claim crosses, Patrício is very quick to close down opponents moving towards goal. When forwards are put through on goal, he is particularly quick to come off his line, put pressure on the attacker, and close down the angles for them to shoot. He uses his large frame to make himself as big as possible, and he also stands up for as long as possible. He is far more effective doing that than diving at the feet of an attacker. Because he is so tall, he can also be a little too slow to get down; there have been a few too many occasions when forwards have managed to dribble around him as a consequence.
There is, however, a weakness in his game when facing long shots. When he is left purely to his instincts – facing close-range shots, for example – he is incredibly strong, but he can be slow to move across his goal when trying to deal with shots from distance. His footwork isn’t the best in those situations, and opponents who hit powerful shots can find a route past him from range. He is not fast enough to sort his feet out in preparation to dive. As a result, he perhaps conceded too many long-range goals in his time at Wolves (below).
Role for Wolves
Patrício’s arrival at Wolves improved the quality of the shot-stopping in their squad, but in his role for their team he did not do a great deal more than try and keep the ball out of the net.
His kicking is not a strong part of his game, particularly when put under pressure from opponents. Following a back-pass from a defender, Patrício’s lack of assurance invites pressure from attackers who sense an opportunity as the ball rolls back towards goal. As the ball travelled, Wolves’ centre-backs did not drop back to offer a passing option to their goalkeeper, and he would almost always look to play long. On the rare occasions he tried to take a touch, he sometimes even lost possession and gifted an opponent a huge chance (below).
Patrício played almost 90 per cent of his goal-kicks long, to the extent that only a handful of Premier League goalkeepers launched more long passes than did Wolves’ number one. None of the other teams who played long from their goalkeeper as much as Wolves finished anything like as high up the table as Nuno‘s did in their first two seasons in the Premier League. That is, the most successful teams play short from their goalkeeper far more than Wolves.
Those teams also like to use their goalkeeper to sweep up behind their defence far more than Patrício did for Wolves. Almost all of the Portuguese goalkeeper’s work was done inside the penalty area, whereas lots of modern goalkeepers are encouraged to defend on the front foot and to race out to clear any loose balls. Nuno did not rely on Patrício to rush out and sweep up. Over the course of the 2019/20 Premier League season, Wolves’ goalkeeper made fewer defensive actions outside of his penalty area than the goalkeepers for any other team – just eight over the course of the entire season.
Patrício’s reflexes are strong enough that his weaknesses with the ball at his feet do not affect his selection. Wolves also played in a way that protected his deficiencies, and he saved shots with enough consistency that he retained importance to their ambitions.