Ingo Preuss cannot resist a joke when discussing the Bueno twins.
“We could probably swap them,” laughs the manager of Borussia Dortmund’s second team.
“Hugo could play for us and Guille could play for Wolves and no one would know.”
Preuss is not wrong. Hugo and Guille are identical twins — only their closest family and friends can tell the 20-year-old brothers apart and it is a difficult task on the football field, too.
The Buenos are both left-backs from Vigo in Spain and are both dedicated and successful. They always dreamed of being footballers but, less than five years ago, were unknown to Europe’s top clubs.
Yet it is turning into a fairy tale, with both now on the cusp of making their names in Europe’s top leagues.
And it all began completely by chance in the autumn of 2018.
One Saturday in October 2018, Graham Clutton found himself at a loose end in Spain.
How he chose to fill his time changed the lives of a family and helped create a Premier League footballer.
“I’d put aside two weekends to go to Vigo and Coruna to watch Deportivo and Celta Vigo under-16s,” says Clutton, who was then head of European academy scouting at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“I’d watched Celta Vigo in the morning and in the afternoon I was kicking my heels. I spoke to a local agent and said I was looking for a game to see in the afternoon. We ended up going to watch a game involving Areosa and Hugo and his twin brother just happened to be playing.
“It was probably equivalent to Sunday league over here, playing on a 4G pitch in a cage. The manager just wore a vest and shorts. They weren’t bad and their grassroots is better than ours. They were well-organised and it was a decent enough club.
“But they were certainly not on our radar. It was just lucky that the game was in the vicinity of Vigo.”
As Clutton watched the youth-team game between CD Areosa and hosts Porrino Industrial, it was Hugo Bueno who first caught his eye.
“I watched a little bit and thought he’d got some real ability,” he tells The Athletic.
“He was playing as a right winger but coming in onto his left foot. I went back the next week and watched him again and saw more in him and ended up watching him four times in total.
“We tend to produce a lot of quite similar players and he was totally different. He had no safety about his game; no sideways or backwards passing and rebuilding.
“When he got the ball he had one thing on his mind, which was to do stepovers, Cruyff turns and chops and go past people and try to score goals either from that wide position or as a No 10.”
While Hugo stole the show in Clutton’s eyes, his twin was operating in a less glamorous way at left-back. Guille did not stand out at that point, Clutton admits.
“I don’t think Guille would have done enough to get me to go back,” he admits.
“He wasn’t as flamboyant as Hugo. Guille was the safe one and Hugo was the one that was different and wanted to make a difference. Guille was more of a team player.”
Clutton arranged a trial for Hugo at Wolves. It was followed by a second trip to Compton Park in which he did enough to impress the club’s academy coaches.
He signed for Wolves while Guille remained in Spain, having seemingly missed the boat.
“When Hugo came over for his signing the whole family came with him including Guille,” says Clutton. “Scott Sellars (then Wolves’ academy manager) asked me at the time when I thought of his brother.
“By that stage Hugo had played a little bit at left wing-back and I thought they were carbon copies of each other.
“We took Guille on a pre-season tour to Spain but basically it would have been folly for us to take another player in the same position.”
For the next six months, as Hugo settled into life in the Midlands and struggled for a while with homesickness, his brother returned to Areosa and wondered whether his chance would come.
It did when a scout from Deportivo La Coruna — along with Celta Vigo, one of the two biggest clubs in north-west Spain — spotted him and offered him a trial.
And 18 months ago, ‘the other Bueno’ was preparing to depart his home town to head overseas, this time to Germany.
“I saw him for the first time in matches in the spring of 2021 when the under-19s of La Coruna were playing against Barcelona in the finals of the under-19s championship, when La Coruna played in Mallorca against Palma and another game against Real Madrid,” recalls Preuss.
“I called his agent and we made the deal to bring him to Dortmund. I wanted to see some players from Barcelona but then I saw Guille and I had a dream that he could make a good career.”
Guille made a dozen appearances last season for Dortmund’s second team, who play in Germany’s third tier.
And he has already matched that tally in this campaign as well as earning a call-up to a first-team squad depleted by World Cup call-ups for tours of Asia and Bulgaria.
“He has a very good left foot,” says Preuss. “We are working on his right foot.
“He has good technique, dribbling, passing and so on, but the best thing about him is his mentality.
“He is working, working and working but the problem is that he does not have the greatest number of goals and assists.
“He has to increase those and when he manages this I am sure he will play in the first team.
“Moving from Spain to Germany, many things were different and it took time but six or seven months later, he was showing what he can do.
“I hope it goes the same way for Guille as it did for Hugo. Hugo played in the second team and it wasn’t easy for him but he worked and worked and eventually got his chance.”
Preuss’ assessment of Hugo is echoed by those involved closely with his development.
The journey has not always been easy, but in October his progress was such that Steve Davis, a coach who had worked closely with since his arrival, was able to give him a Premier League debut as a substitute at home to Nottingham Forest and then a first start at Crystal Palace three days later. He has since made six Premier League appearances.
“Hugo came in as a skinny No 10 or a winger really, a lefty, skilful,” recalls Davis, who was under-18s manager at the time.
“It was a bit of a calculated gamble as he wasn’t going to cost us much, but the question was whether we could make him into the player we felt he had the potential to be.
“Once he came into the group, he played a few games during his trial in the No 10 and wing positions. He used to sit down looking at the referee a lot. Every time he got fouled, he would go down and gesture to the referee, because he struggled physically with the game over here.
“Improving him physically and tactically was the highlight of his plan and those were the things he worked really hard on, with a lot of that coming from himself.
“He did a lot of extras, he was never shy to stay behind and do extra training, and that’s paid off for him.”
Yet the defining moment of Hugo’s development was a position switch that came about a couple of years ago as Davis looked for a way to harness his talents within the framework of Wolves’ team.
With Nuno Espirito Santo favouring a 3-4-3 system which was copied throughout the academy, chances for No 10s and orthodox wingers were few and far between.
“I got a message from him one Thursday afternoon saying, ‘I’ve got the chance to play on Saturday as a left wing-back’, what should I do?” recalls Clutton.
“I said, ‘Take the shirt and never give it back’. I looked at the way Nuno was setting up at the time with three at the back and wing-backs — there was never an out-and-out No 10, so with him being left-footed and being able to go on the outside and deliver, I thought ‘OK’.
“If he had told me he’d been picked at right-back, I would have said, ‘Good luck, give it your best shot’, but I could see him at left wing-back.
“He’s not lightning quick but he’s quick enough, he’s worked really hard on his strength and he’s got a great left foot, so I thought he had a chance.”
From that moment, Hugo has rarely looked back, other than when he suffered an injury at the end of the 2020-21 campaign that ruled him out for several months.
Even then, he used the time to hit the gym and work on his overall strength.
He progressed quickly into James Collins’ under-23s side and, by the time Collins and Davis handed him his first-team debut during the caretaker stint in charge, he had completed the transition from creator to defender.
“When I first took him he was a steady left-back,” Collins tells The Athletic.
“If you’d told me he’d be a Premier League left-back a year or so later I’d have doubted that.
“But it showed what hard work does because he’s gone away and improved and improved and by the end of last season he was outstanding for the under-21s.
“I’ve always thought he was a very good one-versus-one defender and people don’t beat him in those situations. What he does like to do is attack and get forward and maybe that’s from his roots as a No 10.
“Maybe in his early days he used to switch off positionally when the ball was on the opposite side because he hadn’t been used to playing that position.
“His best quality now is his defending, but he’s got himself to a level now where his crossing is very good, he’s got good feet and he can score a goal and make a goal.
“I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as Hugo.”
So now, with countryman Julen Lopetegui taking charge of Wolves and Hugo very much involved in the first-team training camp in Spain, he has the opportunity to establish himself as a Premier League player just as twin Guille eyes a chance in the Bundesliga.
“I knew my opportunity would come,” says Hugo.
“I was working hard every day — on and off the pitch — and if I didn’t play or get on the bench, I was still happy.
“When my chance came to get in the team, I knew I was ready because I have been working all these years.
“I am very happy to play now and to be on the pitch with my team-mates. I am really happy to have my opportunity and, hopefully, I will get more.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
Read the full article here