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Joao Moutinho: The inside track on Wolves' latest Portuguese star

Wolves have shocked the footballing world by signing Portuguese international Joao Moutinho - we get an insider's take on the central midfielder.

Joao Moutinho (Photo: AMA/Sam Bagnall)
Joao Moutinho (Photo: AMA/Sam Bagnall)

Nathan Judah spoke with PortuGOAL creator Tom Kundert, Nathan Motz, co-author of the book 'A Journey through Portuguese Football' and Rui Miguel Martins, freelance Portuguese football writer and editor of The Futebol Factory, to get a proper look at the stunning transfer.

What kind of player can Wolves fans expect in Moutinho? What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Kundert: I'd describe Moutinho as a player who will give you a 7/10 performance or better every single game.

He's a very intelligent footballer, positionally astute, knits things together beautifully in midfield, a very accurate passer and always makes good use of the ball. He's the sort of player who makes others around him look better.

His consistency and his composure are two of his greatest assets - no matter how big the game or the occasion he always puts in a good shift.

I've been banging the drum about him being one of Europe's most underrated players for years. I'd say one of his main weaknesses is his lack of eye for goal - he should have scored more in his career, just doesn't have that instinct to find the net.

Motz: Moutinho is an intelligent, composed player that will provide Wolves with leadership in midfield.

He's going to immediately boost the squad's ability to possess the ball and cycle it back to their talented young forwards.

Moutinho is a Champions League quality player, and a European Champion with Portugal. Over much of the last decade, he has infused every team he's played for with a sense of purpose, as opposed to meaningless side-to-side movement.

In general, it's best to pair Moutinho alongside a more physically aggressive player in midfield as he isn't the type to fly into challenges or carry the ball downfield at pace.

He also rarely displays outrageous technical skill to solve problems, but he makes up for that by being a sophisticated passer of the ball. He also possesses an excellent intuition for counter-attacking play.

Martins: Moutinho is a box-to-box midfielder, meaning he's good on both sides of the game.

He plays in the centre and is most effective in the deep-lying play-maker role where his primary responsibility is to start attacks from deep.

He won't score many goals and will probably pitch in a half-dozen assists a season.

His contribution can't really be measured completely in statistics.

But, he's an effective player. A midfield engine.

What will his role be alongside Neves in central midfield?

Kundert: Moutinho can play anywhere in midfield. I don't know the Wolves squad well enough to guess how Nuno will set up the midfield, but Moutinho will be comfortable in the middle in any system, either alongside Neves as a double-pivot or further upfield playing ahead of Neves whose natural position is deeper.

That said, some of Moutinho's best work has been in a 4-3-3 for Porto and for Portugal, albeit when he was younger and perhaps had a little more dynamism and energy reserves.

Motz: He will wander a bit further down the pitch than Neves. If Wolves stick with a 3-4-3 as they did for much of last season, Moutinho will take care of much of the short tidy passes while Neves searches out the wide sectors of the pitch with deep crosses.

It will offer Wolves some diversity in attack and that's always a good thing.

Martins: I could see Neves-Moutinho working well as a tandem.

They're not entirely different players but I think they will compliment one another well.

Moutinho will probably be expected to do more build-up play, freeing Neves to deliver some of those mouth-watering long-range passes.

I could certainly see it adding a new dimension to Wolves' attack at least.

And I believe off the field, Moutinho could be a mentor to Neves, given his experience.

I'm sure that's part of Nuno's plan.

At 31, does he still have the legs for the Premier League?

Kundert: As a player who relies more on his excellent positional sense and high football IQ, I don't think his age will be an issue.

It seems Wolves are building a very competitive squad which you would suppose will lead to rotation and allow him to be rested sufficiently to stay at a high level throughout the season.

Motz: Moutinho has never been the type of player to rely upon superior physical ability. Contrary to popular opinion, the fastest way to play football is to utilize a dynamic passing style for which Moutinho is well suited.

Speed of thought is what matters and Moutinho has always possessed that wonderful capacity to look as if he's got a bit of extra time on the ball compared to other players. He'll keep the ball moving to the young, fast players around him.

Martins: Considering what I saw at AS Monaco last season and the World Cup, I can't see why not.

His game will probably evolve somewhat.

I'm thinking he has at least two good seasons at the highest level.

Which currently Premier League player would you compare him to?

Kundert: I don't watch much EPL football so can't really think of a player in England like him off the top of the my head. I would compare his style to Xavi's at Barcelona.

There were rumours linking him to Barça many years ago, and I'm convinced he would have fitted into their style seamlessly, but to be fair they had quite a few good midfielders, didn't they...

Motz: I think the way he effortlessly drifts and passes his way through midfield reminds me a bit of Mesut Ozil.

He doesn't usually play as high up the pitch as the German, so he shoots less and won't directly contribute as many goals or assists, but his pass completion rate is similar and statistics show he is dispossessed less frequently and doesn't carelessly give the ball away with bad touches as often. Like Ozil, he often benefits by having a more aggressive player alongside him.

Martins: I would say Arsenal's Granit Xhaka, minus the aggressive tackles.

Moutinho is a very clean player who rarely picks up cards.

They both have what's sometimes called good aggression. Or tenacity.

That's the ability to really take the game to the opponent.

How will he adapt from Monaco to Wolverhampton?!

Kundert: I've seen some people may concerns about the physical nature of the EPL but he's done well at Monaco and Ligue 1 is arguably one of the toughest leagues in Europe from the physical point of view so I don't see that being a problem.

So yes, I'm pretty sure he'll adapt very well.

Motz: Honestly I don't think that will be much of a problem now that there are so many Portuguese in the side. He'll become an immediate and important mentor, especially to all of the young Portuguese players, which will increase his sense of meaning and utility in the squad beyond just his performance on the pitch.

Martins: Moutinho is a veteran player with a decade of senior experience at club and international level.

I don't thinking adapting to a new league or system is going to be a problem.

I think Nuno will use him in the customary number eight role instead of a classical playmaker.

Leonardo Jardim used him as a 10 at times at Monaco, to mixed results.

I think that was due to necessity. He just isn't that kind of player.

Is £5m a bargain?

Kundert: Not a bargain. A steal.

Motz: It's a steal. He's a Champions League quality player, even at 31. Though Portugal had a poor World Cup, Moutinho was one of the few bright spots.

Why a big club has never came in for Moutinho is beyond me. He's a wonderful addition to this fairly young squad.

Who else can you think of in world football who has the kind of experience that he has at his age that would be even remotely available for this price? In today's market it's a fabulous deal.

Martins: I think it very clearly is a bargain, especially considering the money being thrown around by Premier League clubs these days.

Wolves really have nothing to lose with this deal.

Do you think he will be a regular or will need rest?

Kundert: Like I said earlier, I'm not familiar with the Wolves squad so tough to answer, but I'd expect him to feature very heavily for sure.

Motz: He'll be a regular just as he has been for Monaco, Sporting, Porto, and the Portuguese national team throughout his career. There isn't any other option in the squad right now that can replicate his skillset and experience.

Martins: If he stays healthy, he'll be a regular in the starting eleven. I have little doubt.

Of course, he's 31 and he will probably need to be spared, especially if Wolves are battling relegation or trying to get into the European competitions in the late stages of the season.

Let's hope it's the latter.

But, Nuno will likely manage his minutes. But, that's nothing unusual.

It's part of every manager's job.

Do you think he will be a success?

Kundert: Yes. Can't wait to see him in action in England.

Motz: As always, it is important how "success" is defined. Wolves seem to be embarking upon a fairly ambitious project.

If success means powering the squad to qualification for Europa League or Champions League football at the end of the season, that might be a tough ask.

However, if success means he'll establish himself as the top midfield option in the side (alongside Neves of course!) then I think he'll absolutely reach that goal.

He is exactly the type of player Wolves need to balance out their youthful exuberance and bring some coherency to their formation. I expect them to finish in the top half of the table at least.

Martins: Yes, I think so. If he stays healthy, of course.

He has had some injuries over the span of his career. It's important for fans to know that Moutinho won't put double digit goals and assists.

But, there is more to football than that. Moutinho has been a success wherever he's gone.

He's won league titles in Portugal and France. He won the Europa League with Porto. Not to mention Euro 2016 and the U17 Euro before that.

How many players have that kind of resume?

Tom Kundert has spoken to Moutinho many times - click here to listen to his mixed zone interview following Portugal's Euro 2016 final victory over France - just one hour after providing the assist for the most important goal in the country's history.

You can follow Tom, Nathan and Rui on Twitter by searching for @PortuGoal1, @nathanmotz and @FutebolFactory.

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