When Wolverhampton Wanderers announced the signing of Joao Moutinho from Monaco for a fee in the region of £5 million it represented a major coup for the promoted club and highlighted their ambition.
The 31-year-old has accrued over 100 caps for the Portuguese national side in a career which has spanned trophy-laden spells with Sporting, Porto and the Principality club, prior to his arrival in the Midlands.
Moutinho has hit the ground running at Molineux and is already making his quality evident in the Premier League. In Wolves’ hard-fought draw against the odds in the match against Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions, Manchester City, the veteran midfielder was at the heart of his side’s fearless performance.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men weren’t content to park the bus against the team of visiting superstars, but instead took the game to City and attacked in numbers at every opportunity they got. Not only were they bold going forwards, they also demonstrated no shortage of class.
Moutinho was central to this, as he worked and pressed tirelessly and was constantly calm and tidy in possession, thus ensuring that Wolves weren’t overrun in the middle of the park by their illustrious opponents.
The stats bear out the quality of Moutinho’s performance. The three tackles, one interception and single clearance he made are of evidence of the defensive shift he put in. His assist, from a total of two key passes – as many as anyone else wearing the famous old gold strip made – prove how instrumental he was to Wolves’ attacking play too.
Against the opponents to come, most of whom aren’t close to City in terms of quality, Moutinho has shown that he has the capacity to take games by the scruff of the neck.
Moutinho’s midfield partner and compatriot, Ruben Neves, was equally impressive against City. It is this partnership that Wolves fans will be hoping can continue to flourish throughout this season. If Neves himself, at only 21-years-old, can learn from his experienced partner this year then it bodes well for his future too.
Neves is a tremendously exciting young talent, who has already shown he is capable of shining in the top flight. This time spent playing alongside Moutinho will only help him develop quicker. Santo will be hoping that Moutinho proves himself as an effective mentor and can have a positive influence in the dressing room as well as on the pitch.
Moutinho and Neves’ respective skillsets complement one another. Both are very comfortable on the ball and demonstrate an excellent passing range. Neves’ ability to break up opposition attacks and Moutinho’s talent for creating goalscoring opportunities for his teammates make them an ideal double pivot for turning defence into attack.
Wolves’ have shown plenty of ambition with their summer spending and attacking intent, and are very much a club looking up rather than down. If they are to be successful in establishing themselves as a Premier League side and then begin building upon that platform, then players such as Moutinho will be vital to that climb.