Jose Sa interview: Wolves goalkeeper on facing Cristiano Ronaldo and praise from Gary Neville as he reflects on his strong start to life at Molineux

Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa has been one of many signings of the Premier League season – the very best of the lot, in accordance to Gary Neville when doing his end-of-year awards on Monday Night Football. Sa himself is delighted with the praise.

“I saw it,” he tells Sky Sports, a smile beaming from his face. “It is good to see a legend, a guy with a big name in football, talk about me. Of course, it made me very happy because we are in the best league in the world, in my opinion.”

The recognition is deserved. Sa has been integral as Wolves have conceded simply twice of their final seven video games. Only Manchester City now have a greater defensive document within the Premier League.

Sa has been making saves and his presence felt with a very proactive strategy. His predecessor at Wolves, compatriot Rui Patricio, has a century of caps for Portugal. Sa is ready for his first, however the feeling amongst followers is that he may simply be an improve.

“Rui is a very good goalkeeper so it was difficult to replace him, not easy at all. But we have a very good group here. They helped me to adapt to the league, to the football, and this not only helped me a lot but it gave me the confidence to help them too.”

Importantly, the chance has come at the suitable time. Sa is 28, a mature goalkeeper. “Maybe one year earlier would have been good too. But I think if I had waited another year, maybe it would have been too late. It has come at the best moment.”

Three seasons of European soccer with Olympiacos, successful two league titles, was the making of him. “Because I played a lot,” he explains. “That helped me to grow up because I needed to play, I needed that confidence. The years there were very good for me.”

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They had been essential as a result of he had performed surprisingly little prior to that. In Benfica’s academy as a teenager – at the identical time as Wolves boss Bruno Lage – he went out to Maritimo as a back-up goalkeeper earlier than deputising for the nice Iker Casillas at Porto.

“Even young goalkeepers teach you something because you never know everything so you’re always learning. But, of course, Iker taught me a lot. He was an idol from my childhood so it was amazing to work with him. He was very good for me.”

Now Sa is prepared for the highlight himself. Aided by Tony Roberts, Wolves’ new goalkeeper coach, his performances have gone up a degree. “Tony is a very good guy, a very good friend and a very good coach. All the goalkeepers learn from him. I have improved a lot.”

Perhaps it’s value delving into a few of the statistics to underline Sa’s impression at Wolves. He has saved 4 out of each 5 pictures on goal that he has confronted from contained in the penalty field, the very best of any common Premier League goalkeeper – and it’s not notably shut.

If that statistic generally is a little deceptive – it relies upon on the standard of the pictures confronted – take into account the expected-goals information. This components within the precise location of these pictures, their sort and the place on the purpose that they’re directed. Again, Sa comes out with large credit score.

These numbers counsel that Sa has prevented between 4 and 5 extra objectives than the typical goalkeeper. He ranks second within the Premier League behind Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale – one other summer time signing who has obtained a lot praise, however who price moderately extra.

These spectacular shot-stopping statistics are solely a part of the story. Sa additionally ranks second for correct keeper sweepings – coming off his line to snuff out possibilities earlier than they come up.

“Even before I came to Wolves I liked to come out of my goal,” says Sa. “I like to win the ball when it is played in behind the defence. But here we work on it a lot because the coach wants the defenders to be high so I have to be there to help them.”

He is snug with the ball at his ft. “We train that every day. Always. I have to.” Sometimes he can seem a little bit too snug for the gang’s liking. “I give off the impression to people that I am relaxed. Inside, I have the butterflies,” he admits.

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But his distribution has made an enormous distinction to Wolves’ build-up play, not all of it being brief passing. Those side-kicked volleys up the pitch have turn out to be a function, catapulting the workforce up the sphere and serving to to present an actual risk on the counter-attack.

He doesn’t need to speak about N’Golo Kante’s unpunished handball which may have price him an help towards Chelsea. “It is always the same against us. It was not the first time.” But he did register one towards Southampton when Raul Jimenez raced clear for the winner.

“I think it was my first ever assist,” he says, nonetheless delighted. “I could have had two or three at Olympiacos but they did not score. Raul scored. I am trying to do different things. If I can help I will try to do this pass when I can because we have players who can do it.”

Those gamers have welcomed Sa into the group and it’s simple to think about why he has settled so rapidly. He had already performed alongside Daniel Podence at Olympiacos and was on the bench with Willy Boly when Ruben Neves made his remaining Porto look.

“I also know many of the guys here from the national team. They are amazing players and it was good for helping me to adapt to my new life here because when you have lots of Portuguese players you can ask them about the rules here and they can help you.

“But even the opposite guys, they’re wonderful. We have an incredible group and I feel that’s mirrored within the desk and what we’re doing as a result of we’re like a household. If I make a mistake, I’ve my buddy beside me. If they make a mistake, I’m there for them.

“It is like this with all of the players. It gives me more confidence because I know they are always there for me. You need a good defence as a goalkeeper. Just like when you have a goalkeeper who can help you, it gives the defence more confidence too.

“In the start, we had been adapting as a result of it was a brand new coach with a brand new technique. But we’re bettering and pleased with our progress.”

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On Monday, stay on Sky Sports, that will likely be examined when Wolves play towards Manchester United at Old Trafford. For Sa, it guarantees to be a primary recreation towards Cristiano Ronaldo. “I have trained with him but never played against him. It will be amazingly difficult.”

Having spent three years in Madeira with Maritimo, Sa understands higher than most that he will up towards a Portuguese icon. The airport there may be named after Ronaldo, though Sa insists he by no means did go to the participant’s private museum on the marina in Funchal.

The match will likely be a reminder of how far Sa has come. “We want to win at Old Trafford. I came here to play in these great stadiums. This was the goal.” For one of many signings of the season, the brand new 12 months can be a time to take into consideration how far he nonetheless desires to go.

He is candid about Wolves’ targets. “We can go to the European competitions and we are fighting for this.” His personal ambitions are apparent as he hopes for a global debut in World Cup 12 months. “It is a dream. I am fighting for this too. One day maybe it will happen.

“Until then, we’ll see. I’m right here to be taught and to enhance.

“I want to be even better tomorrow.”

Watch Manchester United vs Wolves stay on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm on Monday; kick-off 5.30pm

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