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Inside track: Why £38m Matheus Nunes could prove a snip for Wolves

Wolves are set to make a huge coup with the £38million signing of Sporting’s Matheus Nunes.

Matheus Nunes and by Joao Moutinho (Getty)
Matheus Nunes and by Joao Moutinho (Getty)

The 23-year-old adds strength in depth to Wolves’ midfield and arrives with glowing references in Portugal and beyond.

We spoke to Aaron Barton, Portuguese football writer and creator of Proxima Jornada (Twitter: @ProximaJornada1), for the inside track on Wolves’ next recruit.

What position is he best suited to, and what other positions can he play?

He has been used predominantly as a number eight, often operating alongside a more defensively-minded midfielder such as Joao Palhinha. Playing in the middle of the park allows him to be at his best, any deeper and he wouldn’t impact the game going forward nearly as much as he does, any further forward (ie, as a 10) and it would take away from how involved he is both with and without the ball.

Could you see a good partnership with Ruben Neves?

Most definitely! Personally, and from A Seleção perspective, I’m looking forward to seeing them develop a relationship playing alongside each other, especially in a World Cup year.

If Wolves play in a 4-3-3, I imagine Neves will be at the base of the midfield, with Nunes just in front, but he could also play alongside Neves in a double pivot, similar to his partnership with Palhinha.

It looks set to be a record transfer for Wolves, are they getting good value for money?

I believe so, especially with the inflated transfer fees that are becoming commonplace in football. If Nunes continues on his current trajectory, then this is a snip for Wolves. He is a player that adds so much quality to the Wolves midfield, a player who can tie things together and really help the club push on. The move has come somewhat as a shock, firstly because of his refusal to go to West Ham made it seem like he was content with another season at Sporting and secondly because it seems like Sporting aren’t in a position where they feel they need to sell.

What are Nunes’ strengths and weaknesses?

He’s a very well-rounded midfielder who likes to make an impact in both halves of the pitch.

Nunes has a fantastic passing range, and he uses this to dictate the game. At times he will choose to play short, looking to get on the ball and patiently move Sporting up the pitch but he is also fantastic at playing long, he is able to switch the play to the flanks or in behind with accurate and perfectly weighted long passes.

His willingness to get on the ball is something that sticks out straight away when you watch him, at Sporting he took more touches last season than any other midfielder at the club and he is a player who loves the responsibility of carrying the ball and his team up the pitch. Defensively, Nunes does his fair share also.

He won more duels than any player at the club last season and he owes this to his fantastic reading of the game.

Without the ball, he is an alert midfielder always looking to pounce on a loose touch or a loose pass and is not easily bypassed.

Do you think he will be suited well for the Premier League?

I do! I think he has all the qualities to have a big impact in the Premier League.

How much of a factor will Wolves’ Portuguese contingent be and the upcoming World Cup in this move?

I think the Portuguese influence will have been massive for Nunes, especially with Bruno Lage at the helm. He is a manager who has a reputation back in Portugal for improving young players and having a clear idea regarding what he wants from his players.

In terms of the World Cup, as I mentioned earlier, it gives him a chance to play regularly and build strong relationships not only with Ruben Neves but with the rest of the team, which can only be a good thing as far as the national team is concerned.

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