When Joao Moutinho arrived at Molineux with his strapping stylish beard, eyebrows were raised.
Not for the beard itself, but for the player who was sporting it. This transfer was a major coup for a club of Wolves’ stature.
Moutinho had been regularly linked with Tottenham Hotspur but it was the Midlands he travelled to in search of Premier League football.
He has been a star ever since his move in 2018 and has cemented himself as one of the most consistent in his position in the league.
The Portugal international has registered 14 league assists in just over two seasons and keeps things ticking over with unerring confidence.
However, he is now 34 years of age and despite his positional awareness and composure, is getting no younger.
Thus, could a replacement be in line soon? It’s possible when you consider that Wolves have lined up Liverpool midfielder Gini Wijnaldum as an option in the transfer market.
Signed for £25m from Newcastle, he has been a dynamic pillar in the middle of the park and would add a great deal to a midfield usually dominated by Moutinho.
In fact, he could usurp the Portuguese. That’s because of his passing and impetus in the final third.
Moutinho is the archetypal deep-lying playmaker. Very rarely does he move from his position and when he does, it’s to break up play and spread a wonderful cross-field ball. Wijnaldum possesses similar traits but he also loves to burst forward.
In the words of Jurgen Klopp, the Dutchman has “all the things you need.” Truer words have rarely been spoken by the Liverpool boss, someone who has been rather vocal all season.
Wijnaldum has amassed a pass success rate of 92% this season – higher than Moutinho – and he’s also a bigger goal threat. Since Moutinho signed in 2018, he has scored just twice in the Premier League compared to the eight netted by Wolves’ current target.
Considering Ruben Neves has a largely similar job to the former Monaco man, they could do with a more dynamic successor once Moutinho moves on.
Wijnaldum is adept defensively but has far less to do in that third of the pitch for a Liverpool side who enjoy more possession.
Despite that, Jeff Shi must go all out to secure this transfer.