Joao Moutinho still central to Wolves’ plans

Former Wolves star Kenny Hibbitt is not worried by Joao Moutinho’s age as the Portuguese’s ‘brain is still as sharp’.

James Milner of Liverpool and Joao Moutinho of Wolverhampton Wanderers (AMA)
James Milner of Liverpool and Joao Moutinho of Wolverhampton Wanderers (AMA)

Central midfielder Moutinho, at 34, is the oldest player in Nuno Espirito Santo’s squad.

But having made the most appearances for club and country of any player across Europe last season, he has managed to play 30 times for Wolves in 2020/21.

And Hibbitt, who played 574 games across 16 years at Molineux, feels Moutinho still has plenty left in the tank.

“Well, it doesn’t matter what age you are as long as you’re doing your job right,” said Hibbitt.

“Look at Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he’s 39 years old and still scoring goals.

“When we was playing, you’d hit the 30 mark and you was classed as on your way out.

“But I think if you’re still producing the right quality and doing the things the manager is asking for, it doesn’t matter what age you are.

“Moutinho looks pretty fit to me. He doesn’t look like he’s lost his legs or anything.

“His brain is still as sharp, too. Of course, as you get older, you lose half a yard, but as long as you’re fit and strong, it don’t matter what age you are.”

Moutinho and Ruben Neves have remained Nuno’s go-to midfield pairing throughout the campaign.

And Hibbitt, who scored 114 goals from midfield in gold and black, is pleased Neves has stepped up on the goal front over recent months – currently tied with Pedro Neto as Wolves’ top scorer in the league with five

“I’ve always rated Neves. It just seems sometimes he’s been asked to sit in front of the back four, when he’s got better quality than that, for me,” said Hibbitt.

“As a midfielder, my job was to link up with the front men and get in the box when it went wide.

“He’s a creative player, who can make good passes and open defences up.

“He’s a lovely striker of the ball, so when you’ve got that in your armoury, you should push yourself to get more shots on goal.

“Maybe he has been asked to sit back and let others go forward in the past, but it’s time for Wolves to start going at teams from all angles.”

Hibbitt, though, still thinks there is room for improvement in midfield and mainly in terms of offering support to the strikers, with Willian Jose still yet to score since his arrival on loan from Real Sociedad in January.

“We’ve been playing one up front and Jose has been running his socks off, but he’s not really had good balls into him where he can get his first goal for the club,” added Hibbitt.

“He’s working hard but against Villa, for example, I don’t think he had a shot on goal.

“So, it’s important the midfield players either get beyond him or try to link up with him a little bit more.

“There’s been the link up between the striker and the wide players, but there hasn’t been much from centre midfield into the front man.

“It’s something I’m sure Nuno will be looking at long term, as I think it’s been tough for the front man.

“I’m sure they’ll be working on that now.

“The international break can disrupt you a bit or give you a bit of a chance to recover and work on things, so it’ll be interesting how they respond.”

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