Wolverhampton Wanderers appear to be heading for a midfield reshuffle this summer, with manager Bruno Lage plotting new recruits amid uncertainty over the futures of some of his current stars.
Former Porto man Ruben Neves – who joined the club back in 2017 – appears set for pastures new as speculation builds regarding his future, while his fellow Portuguese Joao Moutinho could also be departing in the current window with just weeks left on his existing deal.
There are still hopes of a contract extension to keep the 35-year-old at the club beyond the end of the month, although the stall in negotiations will no doubt be a source of concern, with the Molineux outfit running the risk of losing their starting midfield pairing of recent seasons.
With that scenario potentially on the horizon, however, the Old Gold have seemingly identified one man to fill the void in Sporting CP’s Joao Palhinha – who would appear to be on his way to England – while another gem who could potentially join him at the club is Barcelona’s Nico Gonzalez.
The 20-year-old starlet is of huge interest to Lage and co, according to reports, with the Premier League side keen to secure a permanent deal or a temporary swoop this summer, as part of a switch that would see Neves head in the other direction.
The club’s links to agent Jorge Mendes – who represents young Gonzalez – could help to push through a deal, while the Nou Camp outfit’s financial woes may also help Wolves’ cause, as the La Liga side look to lighten their wage bill.
The two clubs seemingly already have a good connection, with Francisco Trincao having joined Lage’s side on loan last summer, while unique forward Adama Traore headed in the opposite direction in January in another temporary deal.
Should the Midlands side manage to secure the youngster’s services this summer, they would undoubtedly be taking on a player of huge potential, with the £18m-rated playmaker having been one of a crop of hugely exciting prospects to have emerged from La Masia in recent years.
Dubbed “highly gifted” by former youth team coach Fran Artega, the Spaniard may not be regarded quite as highly as current teammates and compatriots Gavi and Pedri, although is still a real, exciting talent, as demonstrated by his hugely impressive statistics of late.
In comparison to those in his position across Europe’s top five leagues, the £10k-per-week maestro ranks in the top 1% for dribbles completed and in the top 4% for progressive carries, while also in the top 7% for pass completion, showcasing his ability to both drive his side up the pitch as well as retain possession.
That gift has seen him tipped to be the heir to veteran teammate Sergio Busquets by former Barcelona B boss Francisco Xavier Garcia Pimienta, while Xavier Vilajoana – who also worked for the Catalan giants – went as far as to suggest that Gonzalez is “going to be better” than Busquets as he is “more complete”.
That is high praise indeed considering all that the 33-year-old has won in the game thus far, for both club and country, with few players seemingly more comfortable with the ball at their feet than the World Cup winner.
Gonzalez may wish to stay put in order to be moulded into a player of that ilk in the coming years and eventually usurp his colleague, although should Barca wish to cash in, it could prove to be a major coup for Lage and co if they can win the race for his signature.
The battle for his services would no doubt be intense, although from Lage’s point of view he will seemingly want to do all he can to land what could potentially be the next Busquets.