Express & Star

Elite signing of Joao Moutinho sets new bar for Wolves

The impending capture of Joao Moutinho will set a lofty bar even higher in the Wolves transfer stakes this summer.

Last updated
Joao Moutinho

If Rui Patricio, one of Europe's top goalkeepers, was a statement signing, then buying Moutinho will make the country – and the continent – sit up and take notice of the revolution underway at Molineux, if that isn't the case already.

It's a stunning deal whatever way you look at it.

The 31-year-old is a player who's been perennially linked with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United.

It always seemed only a matter of time before the classy midfielder moved to the Premier League...that it's to Wolverhampton and not London, Manchester or Liverpool – all for £5million – is a quite remarkable notion.

Jorge Mendes has worked his magic once again but the signing of Patricio should be seen as a pretty direct link to bagging Moutinho.

It felt like Patricio could open the floodgates and that looks like being the case.

During his glittering career Moutinho has won three Portuguese league titles (with Porto), one French title (Monaco), three Portuguese cups (Porto and Sporting) and a European Championship with Portugal in 2016, as well as reaching two Europa League finals (Porto and Sporting).

With 113 Portugal caps to his name, he can count himself in prestigious company among Europe's elite midfielders.

Indeed, looking at midfielders from major European nations, the list of players who've won more caps than Moutinho reads like a who's who of top class ball players...Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Xabi Alonso, Lothar Matthaus, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Wesley Sneijder, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo, David Beckham and Steven Gerrard are the only ones who can top Moutinho's 113.

At the age of 31 he has a good few years left him in yet but brings with him a wealth of experience (610 club appearances, all in the top divisions of Portugal and France).

What his imminent signing also does is answer the big question as to the type of player Nuno Espirito Santo wants to partner Ruben Neves.

Last season the primary options were box-to-box destroyer Alfred N'Diaye and Romain Saiss – whose languid, no-frills style complemented Neves better and was an ideal fit in a 3-4-3 where there were often five attacking players ahead of the two central midfielders.

Of Wolves' new-look pair, Moutinho is likely to be the one to drift forward but their basic genres aren't too dissimilar...we're talking Lennon and McCartney rather than Lemmy and Taylor Swift.

Technically gifted and adept at moving the ball quickly and precisely, Moutinho is a vibrant and positive influence and will suit Wolves' penchant for countering at pace by moving the ball briskly to Jota, Cavaleiro, Costa etc.

Nuno demands control and smart possession from his teams and Moutinho and Neves will certainly provide that.

If Saiss and N'Diaye could break up play in the bear-pit of the Championship, Moutinho and Neves will recycle possession quickly and offer a high pass accuracy that Nuno will hope can make Wolves one of the most attractive teams in the league to watch.

Moutinho also offers leadership and a calm head in a young team. And of course having six Portuguese team mates, a Portuguese manager and several Portuguese backroom staff will greatly help him adapt to English football.

There are precious few negatives, if any, to find with this that will excite Wolves fans possibly more than any other this summer and set expectations even higher than they are right now.

The pulling power of Wolves, Nuno and Mendes when it comes to Portuguese players has seemingly very few limits (Mr Ronaldo aside).

It's all a far cry from just three years ago when Wolves were shopping in League One for up-and-coming youngsters.

They've gone from bargain buys in Lidl to the finest range at Waitrose. And who knows what's next.