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Bruno Lage always knew fearless fighter Raul Jimenez would lead frontline again

The Mexico forward spent around eight months in recovery after fracturing his skull.

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Wolves forward Raul Jimenez spent some eight months in recovery (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Wolves forward Raul Jimenez spent some eight months in recovery (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Wolves forward Raul Jimenez spent some eight months in recovery (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Wolves boss Bruno Lage never had any doubts “fighter” Raul Jimenez would not have the character needed to return to top form after suffering a life-threatening injury when fracturing his skull.

Jimenez is set to return to the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night for the first time since the horrific incident, which happened during an aerial challenge with former Arsenal defender David Luiz in November 2020.

The Mexico forward spent around eight months in recovery, which was chronicled in a documentary made by Wolves, and he revealed doctors had told him it was a “miracle” he could play again.

Lage arrived at Molineux following Nuno Espirito Santo’s departure last June, by which time Jimenez was closing in on a long-awaited return to action.

The Portuguese coach has been seriously impressed by both the attitude and application of the 30-year-old.

“He is the guy who fights for every ball. He is determined in the way he plays, so you can imagine the hard work he gives here (in training), it is amazing,” said Lage.

I do not see a difference in Raul, like a player who is thinking about what happenedWolves boss Bruno Lage

“He is impressive, the way he runs in every session. These type of players go with everything, that is why he is an amazing player.

“If you saw a player with fear to train or fear to play with the aerial duels, maybe we can talk – but I don’t see anything like that (from Raul) since my first day here, which is why we have never talked with him (about the incident), because he doesn’t need it.”

The Wolves boss continued: “When I arrived here, he had already started training, so for me it was the final stage of the process.

“I do not see a difference in Raul, like a player who is thinking about what happened. What I see every day is a player going there to train very hard and to win every duel.”

Wolves forward Pedro Neto made a late substitute appearance in Sunday’s win over Leicester following 10 months out with a knee injury, so should be in the squad again at Arsenal.

Lage admits if any player felt they were not up to making a fully-committed return, they would not be involved.

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“We need to protect (them), but in a different way,” the Wolves boss said. “When they go (back into action), they need to go training to a higher level.

“If I have a player who cannot give everything in training, he cannot compete in the Premier League because it is the best of the best and I need to be fair with everyone.”

Lage continued: “I give you the example of Pedro (Neto) or Hwang (Hee-chan), (so as) just not to talk about Raul.

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Forward Pedro Neto has made a welcome return from a serious knee injury (Paul Ellis/PA)

Forward Pedro Neto has made a welcome return from a serious knee injury (Paul Ellis/PA)

Forward Pedro Neto has made a welcome return from a serious knee injury (Paul Ellis/PA)

“What is the first step? If he is recovered, he can start training or with the physio, after that he can do more things, like warm ups, exercises without opposition.

“After, if he is feeling OK, now we can then put this player in with both teams, so it is more lighter, no need to defend or to put yourself in the mix.

“But after that, when he is ready, he is ready. At 80 per cent, he cannot do full training, what he needs to do, then he is not ready.

“When he is ready 100 per cent, then he needs to goes with everything – if not, he cannot play in the Premier League and that is why the level here is so high.

“There are some players who have these things like Raul and they have the character to come back (to say), ‘here I am, I am ready to play again’ and some who give up or go play in the different leagues.”

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