Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves has a permanent reminder of Jose Mourinho’s glory days at his old club Porto.
But on Sunday Neves, who has a tattoo of Porto’s badge on his arm, as well as a wolf’s head, will be trying to leave his mark on Mourinho’s latest club by beating Tottenham.
Neves grew up in the Portuguese resort and lined the streets with his family when Mourinho’s jubilant squad – including current Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo as number two goalkeeper – carried home the Champions League trophy in 2004.
The 22-year-old Neves went from supporter to playing for his boyhood club after rising through the ranks to become their youngest player to appear in the Champions League – beating Cristiano Ronaldo’s record – then becoming the youngest captain in the competition.
So it’s not surprising that Neves still looks to Mourinho with affection. “I still am (a Porto fan) – all my family are Porto fans,” said Neves. Asked about the tattoo, he said: “Yes, on my arm.
“I remember Jose Mourinho at Porto – he won the UEFA Cup and Champions League.
“He is a big reference to the Portuguese players and coaches, he has had a great career, and he has won everything.
“All Portuguese players and coaches look to Mourinho with good eyes.
“I was really young but it was the most beautiful form of Porto. I was younger but I remember going with my family to the road and then the stadium to celebrate.
“When I was younger, I understood it – winning the Champions League – probably the biggest competition in football and the UEFA Cup.
“It was really good for Porto and they won it again in 2011 with Andre Villas Boas. It is a great team and I’m glad to be a fan.
“It was the most beautiful time in Porto so it’s only normal they talk about that.”
Wolves prepare to host Spurs on the back of an 11-match unbeaten run in the Premier League and 16 undefeated including the Europa League.
Neves is focusing on the present rather than the past as he prepares to put one past Mourinho.
“It was a really good time for the club, but we don’t look at that, we look to our team,” he said. “It’s our job to play well on Sunday and get a good result.”
Neves isn’t sure he will be able to pass on his thanks for those memories with Porto to Mourinho in person at Molineux.
“I don’t know, I’ll just wait and see what happens,” he said. “We have to focus on the game.”
Wolves continued their impressive form by concluding their Europa League group by beating Besiktas 4-0 to finish on a high.
“We knew we had to do our jobs and we did it well – we controlled all the game and we deserved that result,” said Neves.
“We were looking to score at any time and we achieved a big result.
“We finished second in the group but we feel good because our goal was to get to the knockout stage.
“We did it, so it doesn’t matter whether we finished first or second, all the teams are hard to play against but we always feel confident.”
Wolves will face one of Ajax, Basel, Benfica, Celtic, Espanyol, Gent, Inter Milan, İstanbul Başakşehir, LASK, Malmö, Porto, Salzburg or Seville in the next round, and be at home first. The ties will be played on Thursday 20 February, with the second legs seven days later.
“It was difficult to get there and now we have all the Champions League teams in the draw, so it doesn’t matter, we’ll just wait for Monday’s draw,” added Neves.
“We have more games to play and now we are looking to the next Premier League game.”