How Wolves landed Pep Guardiola's favourite young player

·4-min read
Wolverhampton Wanderers unveil new signing Matheus Nunes at Molineux on August 17, 2022 in Wolverhampton, England - Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images
Wolverhampton Wanderers unveil new signing Matheus Nunes at Molineux on August 17, 2022 in Wolverhampton, England - Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images

Pep Guardiola has described him as “one of the best players in the world”, while Liverpool are also huge admirers, but it is Wolves who have secured the signing of Matheus Nunes.

In one of the most eye-catching transfers of the summer, Nunes has completed a club record £38 million move from Sporting in a major coup for Bruno Lage.

Nunes was operating in the Champions League last season, and has grand ambitions of starring at this year’s World Cup for Portugal, so the significance of this deal for Wolves cannot be overestimated.

Even last week, he rejected a move to West Ham, who finished seventh in the Premier League last season and can offer European football [albeit in the Uefa Conference League]. Wolves' hopes of signing him appeared remote.

Yet after agreeing a fee with Sporting on Monday, which could rise to £42.2 million, it all started to gather momentum.

Lage seized the initiative, holding extensive talks with Nunes to detail the Wolves project and how he envisaged him fitting into his style of play.

Wolves’ head coach has an excellent reputation in Portugal for developing young players and Nunes is understood to be aware of Lage’s influence on the careers of Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix.

The input of Nunes’s agent, Jorge Mendes, cannot be underplayed due to his close links with Wolves, but it was Lage’s personal touch which ultimately proved pivotal.

Nunes flew into England on Tuesday night and began his medical at Wolves’s training ground around 8am on Wednesday morning.

With Lage playing in either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation this season, Nunes will have the platform to enhance his reputation even further.

Nunes up against Wolves in a pre-season friendly - WWFC
Nunes up against Wolves in a pre-season friendly - WWFC

It is no wonder Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are fans of Nunes, who was born in Rio de Janeiro but has lived in Portugal since the age of 12.

A ‘No. 8’ midfielder with a wide array of passes and fine reading of the game, he can also do the dirty work: he won more duels than any other Sporting player last season and was the most fouled in the Primeira Liga.

He contributed three goals and two assists last season for his club, also making his Portugal debut in October last year.

It is a deal which has completely flipped the narrative around the Black Country club. Four or five weeks ago, the mood amongst many supporters was dark, with Wolves owners Fosun under scrutiny for a perceived lack of investment.

The signings of Nathan Collins from Burnley and another long-term Lage target, Goncalo Guedes from Valencia, seemed to come out of nowhere.

Nunes’ arrival takes their spending towards £90 million - currently eclipsing the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United - with potentially more signings to come.

The capture of Nunes epitomises the Wolves model: Fosun’s aim is to buy young talents as investments for the future, whose value will only increase.

Wolves recognise that if Nunes continues his progress, they may only get a year out of him but when he is sold, it will be for a far bigger fee than £38 million.

That strategy also applies to Ruben Neves, Rayan Ait-Nouri, Pedro Neto and Max Kilman, who Wolves accept could eventually leave.

Sporting Lisbon's Brazilian midfielder Matheus Nunes (L) fights for the ball with Sevilla's Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic - AFP
Sporting Lisbon's Brazilian midfielder Matheus Nunes (L) fights for the ball with Sevilla's Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic - AFP

Diogo Jota is a perfect example of that model, completing three years at Wolves before his £41 million move to Liverpool in September 2020.

Incidentally, the signing of Nunes is not expected to have any impact on the immediate future of Neves. Talks are ongoing over a new contract and there is an expectation that he will sign, with only a fortnight left in the transfer window.

Outgoings could bring down the net spend: Wolves turned down £25 million plus a further £17 million in add-ons from Nottingham Forest for Morgan Gibbs-White earlier this month and could now consider better offers before September 1.

The futures of Adama Traore, who has under a year left on his contract, Leander Dendoncker and Willy Boly are also uncertain.

Nunes will become the tenth Portuguese player at Wolves and, despite the intrigue which still surrounds Mendes’s involvement, there is a reason why.

They are all low-maintenance, family-oriented athletes who eat and drink the right things, and are totally dedicated to their profession.

Players such as Joao Moutinho, Neves, Neto, Jose Sa, Nelson Semedo and Daniel Podence have elevated standards and professionalism at Compton to a higher level.

Nunes is expected to blend in perfectly, with Lage in line to give him his debut at Tottenham this weekend. Guardiola and Klopp will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on how he performs.