Hugo Bueno interview: Everybody picks me in fantasy football – even Joao Moutinho
Julen Lopetegui keeps picking him. So does Joao Moutino. And the chances are that you, too, have considered selecting Hugo Bueno.
“A lot of friends have me on Fantasy Football,” says the Spaniard, who has recently become a must-have player in the game. “I don’t play, but I started getting a lot of notifications on Instagram because I was being tagged.”
Until recently, Bueno may have been virtually unknown outside Wolves but in starting the past 10 games, he has become a cornerstone of the Lopetegui regime. The public, too, have taken notice. He is currently in over 500,000 teams in Fantasy Premier League, the game where would-be managers select real-life players who accrue points over the course of the season. That makes him more popular than Andrew Robertson, traditionally one of the game’s highest points scorers, who Bueno will line up against when Wolves take on Liverpool on Saturday.
The game is popular among Premier League players and Lopetegui is not the only manager in the Molineux dressing room who Bueno has to answer to. “Moutinho [plays] too,” Bueno tells Telegraph Sport. “He says I give him a lot of points. Next season I’ll take the plunge and sign up. Oh, and I’ll sign myself. You always have to be confident.”
Bueno, 20, may have now established himself as a Premier League footballer but his journey to the top - even if it has come faster than for many players - was far from straightforward. Picked out by scouts as a 16-year-old playing amateur football in Vigo in north-west Spain, he had to convince those higher up the Molineux food chain that his lack of experience at a professional club was not an issue.
“At first I didn’t believe it,” he says, recalling the day scouts turned up at Areosa, his club at the time. “However, they turned up, liked me a lot and offered me a week’s trial. I trained and played a couple of friendlies. The problem was that I needed a lot of people to see me, because I came from a non-professional club, and obviously there were doubts. I had to go back to Wolverhampton for another week and then they decided to sign me. It was a fantastic opportunity that I had to grab with my hands.”
Even with Wolves’ strong Iberian connection, it was impossible to avoid culture shock. Given his age, Bueno was placed with a host family and the differences in lifestyle soon became apparent. “The Premier League forced the clubs to find us host families,” he says “It went quite well. They helped me to adapt, to get used to the language, although perhaps it was difficult for me that we had dinner so early, around 5.30pm! At that time I used to have a snack!”
Perhaps squeezing in an extra meal each day was the making of Bueno. “I was strong, but skinny,” he says, remembering those early days when Wolves pushed him to bulk up. “To be in good shape, I had to gain six or seven kilos. At the beginning, I had a hard time with the double sessions. I would finish the first one knackered and staying on my feet in the second one was an ordeal, but I worked hard to adapt to that reality.”
And it is not just the time they sat down for dinner that marked out his native Spain and his new home as different. “Physicality is paramount in England,” he adds. Football is a family affair for the Bueno's, and his twin brother is currently in the Borussia Dortmund academy. He admits a return to Spain would appeal one day - so long as he does not have to compete with his brother, also a left-back.
“I'm not closing any doors,” he says. “I hope one day I can play there [in Spain]. But it’d be better not to be with my twin brother, who is now in the Dortmund youth team. We both play in the same position and we’d be competing with each other!”
'You should never leave Liverpool for dead'
It was October when Bruno Lage, Wolves’ former manager, lost his job following a defeat at West Ham that saw them fall into the relegation zone. On paper, things are only marginally better - the club are clear of the bottom three, only by virtue of goal difference - but there is a renewed sense of optimism under Lopetegui.
“One of the first things he asked us to do was to change our attitude and our desire to work hard to win,” Bueno says. “He has established that character and it’s important to keep on winning because we have quality.”
They may be level with Bournemouth, who are 18th, but in one of the tightest relegation fights for years they are only a point off Leicester in 14th. “We have fewer points than we deserve,” he adds.
Liverpool, wounded by recent defeats to Brighton and Brentford, visit the Black Country on Saturday and Bueno insists Wolves can become the latest side to give them a bloody nose.
“Liverpool are always Liverpool, even if they are not at their best. You should never leave them for dead. But I think we’ll make things difficult for them at home,” he says. “I want to win.”