Exclusive interview: Hugo Bueno
PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Last month, Manuel Domínguez sat down on behalf of Scouted Football to talk face-to-face with one of the newcomers in Wolverhampton Wanderers squad for the 2021/2022 season: Hugo Bueno.
The 19-year-old left-back, born in Vigo on Spain’s wild western coast, signed a new two-year contract this past summer. His time to start adding minutes with the first team is getting closer and closer. Manuel and Hugo discuss his progression in England so far, the next steps of his development, as well as the elite-level players he models his game on.
Adapting to English football
In Spain, young prospects looking to carve a career in professional football will often stick close to home, settled at their clubs, hoping to climb the career ladder from lower levels of the domestic game. But Hugo Bueno, aged just 16, made a drastic decision to expedite his development.
Having progressing through the youth system at third-tier club CD Areosa, Bueno swapped the white, wind-swept beaches of Galicia for the industrialised West Midlands. Unsurprisingly, it was a change that brought challenges both on and off the pitch.
“It’s a very big change to come from Spain to England. Here, the football is tougher and with far greater intensity. Once you get here you know that you are going to have to adapt – and the main thing is your physique. After two workouts I realised that I needed to spend lots of time in the gym, or things would not be easy for me,” he explained.
“In my head, I had already assimilated before coming that it was going to be this way and I have always been a person who likes to train hard, so that’s why I have handled it well.”
However, one change he did not expect would arrive just weeks into his integration. “Under Nuno Espírito Santo, the first team usually played with a five-man defence – so they decided to change my position to the left back. It was weird because I was used to being a more attacking player until that moment.”
“There are no residences here, so they put us in homes of families who collaborate with the club. It’s a good idea because you feel welcomed, you have close people who try to keep you well, they care about you and for me it has been a great help.”
“Tactically is where I struggled most. Retaining my position, keeping in line with my defensive partners, staying disciplined when the right back pushed forward. It was a difficult transition, telling myself that I had to defend more and hold back my natural instincts. Although playing in a back five, you always have an opportunity to join in the attack and I love that,” Bueno emphasises.
Sporting ambitions aside, the prospect of any teenager leaving home would prove daunting. But English football is unique in this sense. Unlike the established norms in Spain, many clubs rely on adoptive families to help the adaptation process of their young signings.
“There are no [academy] residences here, so they put us in homes of families who collaborate with the club. It’s a good idea because you feel welcomed, you have close people who try to keep you well, they care about you and for me it has been a great help,” the teenager explains.
“Life beyond football here is quiet. There’s not much to do. The shops close at 5pm, you leave training at 4pm and there is not much to do. Everything is focused on football and you have to know what you are coming for.
“Obviously it depends on the person, there are some who cannot adapt to this life but I knew what was coming. I have to say that I have been very happy from the beginning seeing that everything is related to football, which is what you want most in the end.”
One objective: Premier League debut
A few weeks after landing in England, the Galicia-born attacker-cum-defender was already part of first team training sessions alongside his participation for the reserve team. But this only served as greater motivation for Bueno who was afforded an early glimpse into what his future could look like.
“There are times when you can feel overwhelmed as you move from group to group, but training with the first-team makes me very happy,” Bueno ellaborates. “All I know is to give everything for each training session, which I am happy to do.”
Confidence in him could be seen this past summer, at which point Wolves offered him a renewal until 2024, with the option of a third season.
“On a daily basis, they show me that they are happy with my development and that they trust me. It makes me feel confident. I would like to start gaining experience in the first-team, and that is what I give my all for in each session.”
Bueno also reserved particular praise Bruno Lage, the club’s newly-appointed head coach. “He manages the group very well. He is a perfectionist, very analytical. He loves talking to us and explaining many concepts so that we understand and put them into practice”.
Before Bruno, Bueno was under the orders of another Portuguese coach, Nuno Espírito Santo, from whom he confesses to having learned a lot in the defensive aspect.
“If you want to learn how a five-man defensive line works, Nuno is the right coach. He knew perfectly how each piece should move and work and he has helped me a lot to understand the role of the lane, both in attack but especially in defense”, Hugo points out.
Another of the highlights at Wolves de Nuno was the intensity in training, something that was reflected in the team’s matches and that has been important to train a more competitive Bueno.
“Nuno was that type of coach that, if he saw a certain relaxation coming from the players or the group, you knew that he was always there to raise it up. He achieved that competence in training that makes each player try to give his best in the sessions”, says Hugo, grateful for everything he learned during his stay on the bench.
Role models: Özil & Phonzie
Bueno’s positional switch has since diverted his eyes to players with a very different game from that of his first footballing idol.
“When I was a child, I really liked Mesut Özil from Real Madrid,” the teenager reveals. “I played in similar positions to him and was fascinated by his way of understanding football, his vision of the game. That Özil, at the beginning of the decade, was a top player.”
“Now that I play at left-back, my favourite is Alphonso Davies. I like offensive full-backs as that’s how I prefer to model my game – he is one of the best. He is incredibly strong, fast and very good at dribbling. It helps that he was also a converted player (from forward to defender) like me.”
Özil and Davies – two attack-minded elite-level players with excellent left feet. That says all you need to know about Bueno’s ambitious intentions.
Looking forward, he wants a return to the international stage, but not before he makes his bow in the Premier League: “The call for the [Spanish] under-18s last year was very exciting. I cannot deny that I work for more calls with the national team, it is the dream of any player ”. Now recovered from injury, Hugo hopes to make his breakthrough soon in order to fulfill his dreams.