Moutinho and Higuain: How Wolves' classy midfield maestro is winning battle of perennial Premier League targets

Yahoo Sport UK

It was a peculiar twist of fate which led both Joao Moutinho and Gonzalo Higuain to the Premier League in the same season.

One a story of chaos and scattergun spending - not a new experience for the Chelsea faithful - another an increasingly not-quite underdog tale.

In the midst of a turbulent season under another new manager, who already seems to have sealed his own fate by displeasing the Stamford Bridge fans, Higuain finally moved to England.

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A quick search reveals the Argentina forward has been linked with a move to these shores for at least nine years, and how it feels it.

Every window since the start of 2010, news has spread of the French-born striker’s imminent arrival.

The 31-year-old’s time in Europe has felt plagued by mystery. He banged in goals for Real Madrid. He almost propelled Napoli to the Serie A title. He then helped Juventus consolidate their grip on the league.

He has scored goals at a better strike rate than one in every two games yet - his time at Napoli aside - the striker has never really seemed to settle.

So with Chelsea left exasperated by the unsuccessful exploits of Alvaro Morata, they did what they do best.

One out, one in.

And so it was, on January 23, 2019, the prophecy was finally fulfilled. Higuain came to England.

READ MORE: ‘Playing football is the best work in the world’ - Moutinho ahead of FA Cup semi-final

READ MORE: Moutinho taking nothing for granted ahead of FA Cup match

Moutinho has also been linked to the country for every window in what feels like living memory.

The classy midfielder has gone about his business quietly, making his name in the midfield role at Porto before a big-money 2013 move to Monaco.

The Portuguese midfielder, now 32, then played a pivotal but underrated role as the Ligue 1 club stormed to the Champions League semi-finals in 2016-17.

Kylian Mbappe led the headlines for that side, while the likes of Benjamin Mendy and Thomas Lemar helped them claim the domestic league title.

No easy feat when Paris Saint-Germain are involved.

Perhaps it was the resulting exodus which followed that may have left Moutinho thinking his big chance to make a mark in one of Europe’s traditionally elite leagues had passed.

Enter Wolverhampton Wanderers. It would be remiss to fail to mention Jorge Mendes is Moutinho’s agent. To elaborate further though, would be to detract from the point.

Wolves showed faith in the experienced Champions League old-timer, and at just £5million, the move was low-risk.

Not risk-free, as that concept barely exists in football. (Take note, Fulham).

In a season in which he scored a stunner at Manchester United he has not looked back and showed form which truly belies his age.

His signing has instantly paid dividends as the Portugal veteran is using all his experience to help Wolves surge up the table in their first season back in the Premier League.

In a way, Moutinho’s low-key swashbuckling approach has helped balance a Wolves team filled with some quality players already.

His striking partnership with compatriot Ruben Neves has clearly been pivotal, with Leander Dendoncker seamlessly fitting in alongside the pair, while the likes of Raul Jimenez and Willy Boly do the work at the other ends of the field.

“I think from the first day I came here, I thought we could do something good,” Moutinho told media ahead of a semi-final against Watford. “Of course, if you'd had said we were going to stay where we are now, in seventh position right now, maybe not.

“But now we want to win something, and this season that is the FA Cup.”

And hence Wolves are on the verge of an FA Cup Final which would cap a barnstorming season for the Midlanders as Moutinho potentially approaches the apotheosis of his career.

But Higuain and Chelsea? With just three goals to his name in Chelsea blue, questions are being raised of his suitability to the league.

Cause or consequence of the storm Chelsea have concocted this season? The answer is yet unknown.

The enigmatic forward himself has even admitted to coach Maurizio Sarri he is struggling to adapt.

“He said to me that it's difficult, because the physical impact of the defenders here is really very strong,” said Sarri.

“The referees here are really very different than in Italy, and so it's another football for him, especially for a striker and a goalkeeper, it's really very different.

“And so I think that he needs time, but we have no time.”

So it is that the tale of Higuain continues. Will he reverse his fortunes in the remainder of the season?

Either way, the Premier League had waited with bated breath for both Moutinho and Higuain.

Moutinho was worth the wait, can Higuain prove he was too?

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