The time has come for Matheus Nunes to repay Wolves’ £44m faith
With a list of admirers including Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, it is now time for Matheus Nunes to show why Wolves paid a record £44 million for him last year.
Nunes is still waiting for lift-off in the Premier League since his high-profile arrival and all the indications are that Liverpool are now considering other more expensive targets in his position this summer.
Wolves removed a clause allowing Liverpool to trigger a summer deal for Nunes after completing the deal with Sporting, and it is understood that the Merseyside club are ready to move on.
With Wolves expected to demand well over £50 million for the Portugal international, the total cost of any transfer could be too high for Liverpool, who remain interested in England stars Jude Bellingham and Mason Mount, and Brighton’s Moises Caicedo.
There is interest from other clubs in Nunes but Wolves are still waiting for the 24-year-old to produce the performances which led to Guardiola describing him as one of the best young players in the world.
Nunes now has the opportunity to shine, with captain Ruben Neves suspended for two games after a 10th booking of the season at Nottingham Forest.
The absence of Neves is a major blow to Julen Lopetegui as he fights to avoid relegation, but it presents a chance for Nunes to step up.
Nunes was played on the left of midfield at the City Ground and did not look comfortable, but the option of moving him into a central position could bring out the best of him.
That is the position where he controlled games in the Champions League with Sporting, dictating play and driving forward with the ball from deep.
There have only been flashes of that undoubted ability so far this season, ironically in an FA Cup tie at Anfield when he was introduced as a second-half substitute.
Neves will miss the home matches against Chelsea and Brentford and Lopetegui said: “It’s a pity for us but we have that risk with him [of playing him at Forest with nine bookings].
“He is playing the last matches with that risk and now we are going to play two matches without him and we have to think of solutions with more players and be ready for the next match.
“We have nine matches in front of us, nine finals, and we have to be ready for the next one.”
Wolves and Forest both remain close to the relegation zone after another stormy encounter between the two clubs.
Daniel Podence is facing an FA investigation for an alleged spitting incident involving Forest’s Brennan Johnson.
Podence appeared to spit in Johnson’s face and the FA confirmed they are looking into the circumstances. Video assistant referee Neil Swarbrick reviewed the incident at the time but there was no conclusive evidence.
The FA is also waiting for referee Chris Kavanagh’s report on the mass confrontation between the two benches in the second half, with Forest coach Alan Tate and Wolves’s Pablo Sanz dismissed.
With both clubs fined after a melee following the Carabao Cup tie in January, the FA may take further action if Kavanagh includes the latest flashpoints in his observations.
Kavanagh was the official who sent off Fulham head coach Marco Silva and striker Aleksandar Mitrovic in the FA Cup tie at Manchester United last month.
Forest's stormy encounter with Wolves marred by alleged spitting incident
The Football Association are investigating an alleged spitting incident involving Wolves forward Daniel Podence during Nottingham Forest's stormy encounter with Wolves.
Podence appeared to spit in the direction of Forest’s Brennan Johnson in the final stages, and though a Var review failed to produce conclusive evidence, the Portugal international could now face retrospective action. The FA are looking into "the circumstances of the incident" following a bad-tempered match.
Jonny Evans was suspended for six games in March 2015 at Manchester United when he was found guilty of spitting at Papiss Cisse, and Podence may face similar punishment if the FA conclude he spat in Johnson’s face.
This was another tempestuous derby with Cooper’s assistant Alan Tate and Wolves assistant coach Pablo Sanz dismissed early in the second half following a mass confrontation in the technical area.
Wolves and Forest were both fined by the FA following their Carabao Cup tie in January after a huge melee following the match.
Cooper defended Tate for his behaviour but was clearly furious over the flashpoint involving Podence, who scored the Wolves equaliser.
He said: “I’ve seen it back and spoken to Brennan and I’m not going to add fuel to fire because there's pictures and video, so you have to trust the authorities to deal with it.
“We'll trust that processes will kick in and I don't want to say any more than that. I'm sure there will be next steps."
Referee Chris Kavanagh sent off Fulham’s Marco Silva and Aleksandar Mitrovic in the recent FA Cup tie at United, and was at the centre of this game.
Kavanagh dismissed Tate and Sanz after they both squared up to each other in the technical area, following an incident in which Adama Traore collided with Felipe in the Forest penalty box.
Cooper said: “We know there’s been a lot of ill-discipline on the Wolves touchline since the change of manager, so we were prepared for it.
“The last thing we wanted was for anything to boil over, but when we’re at our stadium we can't let opposition staff dominate officials and try and influence the game.”
Forest are without a win in seven league matches but this was a promising performance despite the recent scrutiny on Cooper’s position.
Evangelos Marinakis, the Forest owner, is understood to have spoken with a number of players after the match and insisted that they need to display a ‘big-club mentality’ and not be happy with draws.
With the stakes so high, this was a typically frenetic encounter between two teams badly out of form.
Forest had been threatening before taking the lead seven minutes before half-time, when Johnson slotted the ball under Jose Sa.
Johnson now has eight league goals in a debut top-flight campaign and will be playing in this division next season, whatever happens to his club.
Wolves had been disappointing, with head coach Julen Lopetegui constantly in motion in his technical area.
There was a potentially damaging blow for Wolves shortly before half-time when captain Ruben Neves was booked for a foul, which means he will be banned for two matches after a tenth caution of the season.
Chaos was never far away and though Wolves dominated possession, they had to wait until the 83rd minute to equalise when Podence cut inside Neco Williams to blast the ball past Keylor Navas.
Lopetegui insists his Wolves team have nine more cup finals this season.
“In these kind of matches there is big emotion and it’s important to keep the emotion in football,” he said.
“We are working for a lot of people, a lot of kids, and we have to show a big respect between us.
“Each match is going to be a challenge and to win each match in the Premier League is very difficult and we have to be ready to continue in the fight.”