João Moutinho: Who is the Wolves-bound Portuguese international and what will he bring to the table?
The dust has now started to settle; in what has been a truly extraordinary revelation for Wolves fans across the world, Portugal's third most capped international in the country's entire history is the latest player to sign for the Premier League newcomers. So what can Wolves supporters expect from their latest high-profile acquisition, and just how much of a coup will this transfer be?
Continuing the trend of exciting incomings
Wolves have made a habit of shocking the footballing world with some of the signings they have managed to pull off in the last few seasons. When still lingering in the Championship, for example, with no guarantee that promotion was just around the corner, Wolves still managed to attract two reputable Portuguese talents in Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro, from Benfica and Monaco respectively, to the club, and followed that up by then bringing in Champions League pedigree, signing Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota while also still in England's second tier. These were transfers which were understandably scarcely believed, such is the quality Wolves suddenly found they were able to attract to the club all while still hunting for their prestigious Premier League return.
And now promotion has been established, the signings have only become even more extravagant, not only attracting top quality footballers, but fully-fledged Portuguese internationals to the West Midlands. Signing the country's long-standing number one in Rui Patricio, who is surely the greatest goalkeeper the nation has had since Vitor Baia, was an incredible show of intent. But to then follow that up with Moutinho is as audacious as it is impressive - and exciting. Just when you thought Wolves had pulled off their biggest signing of the last decade, they pull another one out of the bag. And this one is surely the pinnacle of them all.
Hard-working, dedicated - and a very 'Nuno' player
João Moutinho has, quite extraordinarily, already played 113 times for Portugal. And yet he is still, somehow, only 31. With many good years still left in him playing at the highest level, both for club and country, his record for the national team - which spans back to 2005 when he made his national debut aged just 18 - is nothing short of miraculous. To put it into context, not only is he the third most capped player in Portugal's entire history already - ahead of the likes of Eusebio, Rui Costa, Nani and Pauleta, and only behind national legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo - he is also the joint 74th most capped player of all European players to have ever played the game. And yet still he is only in his early 30s.
But his undeniably successful career is no doubt down to his hard-working attitude in addition to his obvious abundance of talent. Indeed, Moutinho, barring Cristiano Ronaldo, has arguably been Portugal's greatest servant over the last decade, having been a mainstay in the side since the 2006 World Cup. Having also played a crucial role for the country in the Euro 2016 triumph, Moutinho deservedly looks set to go down as a true national icon, and his dedication to the sport is testament to him and what he has achieved.
However, as a family man and a level-headed individual, Moutinho also fits the mould of head coach Nuno Espirito Santo very well indeed; a composed man on and off the pitch, Moutinho undoubtedly has the right attitude to succeed under the Portuguese manager, and arrives at the club as a leader, possessing the experience, ability and reputation to support and guide all the younger players, as well as a supremely talented footballer in his own right.
Possessing incredible passing range and ability, Moutinho is an ideal playmaker, pulling the strings in the centre of the park and offering the required creativity to open up goal-scoring opportunities for the players around him.
A clever footballing mind to go with his outstanding technique and vision means that not only can he pull off those delicate, long-range, over-the-top balls or those threaded, defence-splitting passes, but he also knows when to play them, being composed on the ball and possessing the experience and know-how to pick his moments carefully. As such, he invariably makes the correct decision, with his assured and intelligent nature allowing him to always be in control of the ball when in possession and will stand him in good stead for his debut season in the English game.
The likes of Diogo Jota and Ivan Cavaleiro are also bound to link up very nicely with Moutinho, who is adept at spraying the ball into space in wide areas and expanding the pitch to get the wingers in behind the defensive line, with his chipped passing a potentially lethal weapon that can cause serious problems to any side in the Premier League.
Additionally, while he's able to dictate the pace of the game with his passing variety, he's also very willing to put in a shift for the team; able to contribute both defensively and offensively, Moutinho covers a lot of ground, tracking back to help out his defence when required, and with good positioning and tackling ability to go with his creativity and technical prowess, he's an ideal central midfielder for any side.
Some Wolves fans expressed concerns that a central midfield partnership with both Ruben Neves and João Moutinho is a little lightweight, with no hard-hitting tackler present in central midfield. While that may be the case, with Neves a natural defensive midfielder and Moutinho having adapted his game to sit a little deeper than he did in his younger years, they will still maintain full control in central midfield in the majority of matches they play in the Premier League next season. Having two players that are excellent readers of the game and possess astute positional awareness will make intercepting and tackling more of an art form than a physical battle, and while lacking a powerful midfielder who serves the simple purpose of breaking up play, both Neves and Moutinho have proved in the past that they offer far more than pinpoint, delicate passes, more than happy to do their job defensively too.
Moutinho was one of Portugal's top performers at the World Cup in Russia last month, and was sorely missed in the match against Uruguay which ultimately resulted in Portugal exiting the tournament early, and this move to Wolves - which sees their Portuguese contingent grow even further - for just £5million is even more astonishing than the transfer itself. It is an incredible bargain for one of Portugal's most talented midfielders in the history of the game, and it is a mouthwatering prospect to think that we can witness him play alongside Ruben Neves in the centre of the park week in, week out next season.