Wolves: What does Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho bring?

(Photo credit: Fanny Schertzer)

Joao Moutinho looks set to join the Portuguese revolution taking place at Wolverhampton Wanderers in a £5 million deal from Monaco.

Last season, Nuno Espirito Santo took over at the helm of the midlands club, and since then a whole host of Iberian players have made the move to Molineux. Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota were key to the side’s promotion from the Championship last season, for example, when they finished first with a points total of 99.

Now Nuno has added to the Portuguese contingent with goalkeeper Rui Patricio and Moutinho - Portugal's third-most capped player - who both played a key role in their country’s Euro 2016 victory in France.

With these additions to the squad, Wolves are serious about cementing themselves in the Premier League, and potentially even challenging for a top half spot in the division. But what will Moutinho provide to the side that could help them achieve that goal?

Moutinho at Monaco

Moutinho joined the principality Ligue 1 club in 2013 after three seasons at Porto for an estimated fee of €25 million.

During his time in the French league, he was a key part in ending the Paris Saint-Germain monopoly on the domestic title as Monaco claimed the Ligue 1 trophy in 2016/17 and re-established their status as a big European club in the Champions League.

His role at the club has been impressive considering Monaco’s transfer policy. They are well known for their tendency to buy young players cheap and sell them on after a few seasons of first team football. For Moutinho to survive in this team, he has had to be the constant in Leonardo Jardim’s plans while the rest of the squad had a high turnover.

As the senior figure in the midfield, he has been vital in aiding the development of footballers who end up leaving the club for pastures new.

Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Fabinho and others have all played alongside the midfield maestro, and now find themselves at the top clubs on the continent. To remain the constant in Monaco's midfield, he has had to be adaptable whilst maintaining form.

What will he bring to the Premier League?

Whilst Moutinho plays only in central midfield, he is versatile in terms of his offensive or defensive threat.

Over his career, he's played a variety of roles, carrying out the duties of a deep-lying playmaker and a more traditional number ten. It's the former that he mostly plays these days, picking out passes for his wingers to chase, whilst remaining as a shield for the back four.

Moutinho could partner Ruben Neves in two-man midfield variants, like a 4-2-3-1 or Wolves' 3-4-3.

Looking at the last five years of his career, it is easy to see this transition. In the 2014/15 season, with Jeremy Toulalan, Geoffrey Kondogbia and a young Tiemoue Bakayoko to keep opposition attacks at bay in defensive midfield, Moutinho played further up the pitch, resulting in him providing 1.9 key passes per game and 1.4 shots per game in the league.

The Portuguese had the most prolific season in his career, finishing with four goals and six assists domestically.

As he lost his more defensive-minded teammates - as well as reaching his thirties - Moutinho has been pushed deeper. This is well reflected in his performances last season. He scored just once, but still racked up six assists from a deeper role, while averaging just 1.7 key passes per game and 0.7 shots per game.

Nuno could use a three-man midfield featuring Neves, Roman Saiss and Moutinho.

Given he will turn 32 in September, expect him to play in that deeper role, should he move to Wolves. Perhaps Nuno will switch to a three-man midfield to accommodate this, alongside Ruben Neves and Romain Saiss.

Moutinho is also a master set piece taker as he showed against Paris Saint-Germain last season when a deflected free kick brought Monaco back into the game. He may not get many opportunities at international level with Cristiano Ronaldo in the pecking order, but he has the ability from dead ball situations.

A smart signing

Fitting Moutinho into the Wolves side may prove a challenge, as he has typically been paired with an anchorman, if not two, throughout his career to give him the freedom necessary to play to his best. If Neves and Saiss - or one of them, depending on Nuno's formational choices - can stay disciplined enough to let Moutinho run free, it could work.

At the rumoured £5 million, it’s hard to say no to a key cog in the Euro 2016 winning team, but the Portuguese probably only has a season or two at most left in him as he reaches the twilight of his career.

At the least, Moutinho would represent a great example for the younger players in the squad. His tutelage of many players who have come through Monaco’s academy has been indispensable. He could yet push his compatriot Neves and others to the next level with his wisdom.

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