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Wolves: Lopetegui can ditch Moutinho for Ounahi

Wolverhampton Wanderers are reportedly interested in signing Angers SCO midfielder Azzedine Ounahi in January and his potential arrival at Molineux could allow new boss Julen Lopetegui to finally ditch Joao Moutinho.

According to 90min, the Midlands outfit are one of several Premier League clubs taking an interest in the 22-year-old midfielder, who caught the eye on the world’s stage in Qatar, playing a crucial role in Morocco’s run to the semi-finals.

The Atlas Lions defeated Belgium, Spain and Portugal before their defeat against France in the final four, with Ounahi featuring seven times and earning a strong 6.72 average rating from WhoScored for his performances.

Journalist Zach Lowy was certainly impressed with the youngster’s displays in Qatar and tipped him for a big move in 2023 on Twitter.

He wrote:

“Azzedine Ounahi is 22 years old, is playing for the bottom-ranked team in Ligue 1, and has been sensational alongside Sofyan Amrabat and Selim Amallah in Morocco’s midfield. Can see him getting a big move after this tournament.”

Leicester City, Newcastle United, Southampton and West Ham United were also credited with an interest in the young World Cup star, so it was perhaps always going to be a challenge to convince him to move to Molineux next month.

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Bruno Lage on the touchline for Wolves.

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However, Lopetegui has already proven that he can attract players from the top level, as Matheus Cunha joined on a loan-to-buy deal, so if the Old Gold are willing to pay the reported £22m asking price for Ounahi, there seems no reason why he couldn’t be featuring in Wolves’ midfield in the second half of the season.

Should he arrive at Molineux, he would likely compete with Moutinho for a starting spot alongside Matheus Nunes and Ruben Neves in Lopetegui’s midfield.

Although the Portuguese veteran still has moments of quality, with his pass for Daniel Podence’s goal against Everton on Boxing Day a prime example, he no longer has the legs to be a regular starter in the top flight.

Ounahi scores in the top 1% and top 30% percentile for dribbles completed and the number of times dribbled past when compared to other midfielders in Europe’s top leagues, whereas Moutinho scores in the bottom 13% and worst possible percentile for the same statistics, which emphasises he doesn’t have the energy to be effective in a relegation battle.

Sadly, the former Porto man’s form, according to WhoScored, has been declining rapidly in recent seasons and if Ounahi does join in January, it could well be the beginning of the end for the 36-year-old at Wolves.