There was a real concern over the summer that Joao Moutinho may have played his last game for Wolves.
The Portuguese midfielder was out of contract at Molineux but eventually agreed to a new one-year deal at the club to extend his stay, having joined from Monaco in 2018.
In his four years with the Old Gold, Moutinho has gone on to make 182 appearances, in which he has contributed five goals and 23 assists.
Even at 36, Moutinho remains a hugely important part of Bruno Lage’s side, and has played 90 minutes in each of his Premier League games so far this season after missing the opening two fixtures due to an ankle injury, so he could be a tough man to replace when he does eventually depart the Midlands.
However, Lage could have an ideal replacement for the former Porto man waiting in the wings at Molineux, with Luke Cundle showing with his performances in the Championship that he could have a bright future in Wolves’ first team.
The academy graduate has been a strong performer for the U21s in recent seasons, contributing nine goals and 14 assists in 53 appearances, so it was no surprise to see him earn a loan move away during the summer.
The 20-year-old joined Swansea City in the Championship and he made his first start for the club in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Hull City, marking his full debut with a goal for Russell Martin’s side.
With Moutinho only contracted until the end of the season, Lage will no doubt be keeping a close eye on his progress with the Swans, and perhaps he could make his mark on Wolves’ first team next season.
Wolves academy coach James Collins was full of praise for Cundle last season, saying:
“Cundle scored a brilliant goal. I thought he was magnificent all night, showed his quality tonight and ran the game.
“I was delighted to have him back because he’s ready for that step up. Whether that’s with our first team or whether that’s a loan, because watching him out there, I thought he was magnificent.
“He’s got an outstanding brain and drives the game, he runs the game and dictates it which is a great skill. He’s intelligent, makes good decisions, can attack and defend and when you first see him, you wonder whether he could be a Premier League player because he’s slight and small.”
Collins’ quotes will certainly remind Wolves’ fans of Moutinho, as he is regularly dictating Premier League games with his technical ability despite his size.
Indeed, it is hardly a surprise to see him play in such a manner considering quotes from the talented youngster last season. When asked which player in the first team he wants to play like, Cundle said: “Joao Moutinho.
“When I train with the first team, he has a lot of energy and is really enthusiastic. He’s always trying his best to win.”
Consequently, it’s evident that the academy graduate could well prove to be the ideal heir to the Portuguese maestro in Lage’s squad.