NEIL MOXLEY: Has the answer to Manchester City’s striker hunt been at Molineux all along – or could Antonio Conte’s Tottenham replace Harry Kane with the Mexican?
Raul Jimenez is a world-class striker. And he’s playing for Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Some statement, that.
But for all the plaudits that rain down – deservedly – on the heads of the glitterati in the Premier League, it’s difficult not to argue that the Mexican hasn’t been overlooked – and deserves the same treatment.
Compared to others in that bracket, Harry Kane scores more frequently. Liverpool’s front three cause havoc wherever they go. And Chelsea spent almost £100m to make Romelu Lukaku their spearhead.
Even before that harrowing head injury, quite why the 30-year-old wasn’t on the shopping list of any club that operates with that type of forward is anyone’s guess.
Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool – you name it, heck he could even have replaced an Etihad-bound Kane.
Wolves via Getty Images)
He is right up there.
You don’t believe me?
Look at the statistics. Thirty-seven goals in 98 Premier League appearances.
Every time Wolves earned a point in his first two seasons in the top-flight, Jimenez was on the pitch.
At the end of those campaigns, the Molineux men finished seventh.
Twelve months ago, when the club played at the Emirates against Arsenal in the game that almost ended the forward’s life, never mind his career, Wolves had collected 17 points from ten matches.
In the next 28 they picked up an average of one point per match. Carried over the season, that would have seen them finish in 17th position, one place above the relegation zone.
After an understandably sluggish start following his return this season, he’s now at a comparable level to where he left off.
Those who watch him on a regular basis know they are seeing a modern-day marksman to be feared.
He is mobile. Never mind his finishing, his industry and link-up play is of the highest order. As is his finishing in a team that didn’t – before Bruno Lage appeared – create a glut of chances on a weekly basis.
Jimenez hasn’t been feeding off scraps exactly – that would be unfair to the likes of Diogo Jota, Adama Traore, Neto and Daniel Podence, in particular.
But he’s not been on the end of a supply line that benefits Kane, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Lukaku, either.
Conor Coady, now deservedly being acknowledged as a real tour de force in the dressing-rooms for club and country, knew the score.
“I’d been to the doctor, asking how long it would be before Raul was back,” said Wolves’ skipper, “I was probably being selfish because I know the difference it makes to our team. He helps us win games.”
Last weekend was a case in point. Alan Shearer, the Premier League’s all-time top scorer, remarked on the quality of Jimenez’s finish against West Ham during Match-of-the-Day.
It’s a testament to the work undertaken by the medics and the player’s own psyche that he has returned to that level.
At the age of 30 and with a long-term contract protecting their investment, it may be that the time has passed for the forward to make a move from Wolves to a club involved in the Champions League.
As far as everyone at Molineux is concerned, amen to that.
Yes, Raul Jimenez is back.
And if he goes under the radar for another couple of years, no one of an old gold and black persuasion in the Black Country will be losing too much sleep.