Wolves have smashed their club record fee with the sensational signing of Matheus Nunes from Sporting Clube de Portugal for a fee reportedly in the region of £38million.
Nunes has signed a 5-year deal at the club taking his contract to 2027.
This move signifies Fosun’s intent to back Bruno Lage in the summer market, with a centre-forward still said to be on the transfer targets list.
It has been well documented that Wolves have been in for Nunes for the majority of the summer, with Lage seeing him as a key figure for his rebuild of the side.
Let’s take a look at what the Portuguese International can bring to Wolves:
The Story So Far
Nunes was originally born in Rio de Janeiro but moved to Lisbon at the age of 12.
He began playing for his local side Ericeirense (who are due around £1million from this move) and impressed enough to sign for professional side Estoril in the summer of 2018, this was also the previous club of fellow countryman Chiquinho.
💰 Ericeirense hit the 𝗝𝗔𝗖𝗞𝗣𝗢𝗧
The club, which plays in the district leagues in Lisbon, are expected to pocket just over €1.2 million from the Matheus Nunes deal.
He played at the club from 12 to 18, meaning the club are entitled to 2.75% of the transfer (€1,237,000). pic.twitter.com/7EXSzd1DxJ
— Próxima Jornada (@ProximaJornada1) August 17, 2022
Nunes made his debut for Estoril in October 2018 and was predominantly played in the reserve side.
After impressing against them in the Taça de Portugal, Sporting CP then picked him up from Estoril for a fee of just over £850,000 – this was only six months after he signed for Estoril. This fee covered half of his economic rights and the contract included a 45m Euro release clause. He went on to play 32 times for Sporting’s U23s, scoring 3 goals and collecting 3 assists.
Sporting manager Ruben Amorim took a liking to Nunes thanks to his impressive performances in the youth ranks and handed him his debut in June 2020. He received more consistent appearances towards the end of the 2019/20 season and made his big breakthrough the following campaign.
In the 2020/21 season, he played over 1,250 minutes for the Sporting first team as they went on to win their first league title since 2002. Nunes proved to be a pivotal part of Amorim’s 3-4-3 system, playing 31 times in the league, and carried that momentum on into the 2021/22 season.
Last season he played 50 times in all competitions for Sporting and impressed further in the Primeira Liga as well as the Champions League.
In total, Nunes played 101 games for Sporting, garnering eight goals and nine assists and building a reputation as one of Portugal’s most promising midfielders.
After a 5-0 defeat against Manchester City in February, Pep Guardiola dubbed him “one of the best players in the world”. Very high praise for someone who knows all about coaching the top central midfielders.
Nunes was the subject of much speculation this summer with reports having suggested he rejected deals from both Wolves and West Ham United alongside linked interest from Manchester City and Liverpool. However, despite wanting to hold out for Champions League football, Nunes was convinced to join Bruno Lage’s project and now finds himself in Little Portugal’s Wolverhampton base.
The Tactical Side
Nunes offers something that Wolves fans have been crying out for for several years, and that is a progressive midfielder.
Not only does he fit the profile of what Wolves need, but he’s also one of the best in Europe at what he does.
He’s played the majority of his career at central midfield having been used in 71 games in that position. However, according to transfermarkt, he has also dabbled in defensive midfield and attacking midfield duties.
This blend of positions makes him the ideal box-to-box midfielder for Wolves as he is able to cover several key characteristics.
His passing can be hit and miss due to a preference for trying riskier passes, but in terms of a short-range passer, he is proficient.
Questions remain as to whether he can adapt to the physicality of the Premier League due to his slighter frame, however, his dribbling and carrying numbers are exceptional.
He also boasts fantastic percentiles when it comes to through balls, which suggests he will be a player that will frequently be able to bridge the gap between the midfield and the attack.
Despite his height, he provides agility and superb technical ability to turn away from pressing opponents. When it comes to press-resistant midfielders, he’s up there with the best.
According to FBRef, he is also in the top one percent for dribbles completed. This will aid Wolves’ speed in transition but also offer them an outlet should they need to bypass a high press.
With the eye test, it is clear to see he is adept with the ball at his feet, and whilst his passing may need touching up, Wolves have other players that can replace that missing passing range.
Taking a look at the stats below, beautifully formatted by Breaking the Lines, we can see the empirical data that supports this. His short and medium pass completion mixed with his passes under pressure denotes that he is a midfielder that will be able to break the line with quicker passes into free space, whilst being able to do it under pressure.
With pressing being something Wolves’ midfield and defence has struggled to cope with, Nunes offers us a perfect player to keep the ball and find space where he can impact games on the front foot.
Whilst Ruben Neves offers the passing range from deep that Nunes does not, Nunes offers the mobility and dynamism that Neves lacks. In essence, they are the perfect complimentary midfield partnership. With Wolves potentially switching to a 4-3-3, putting Joao Moutinho into the mix with his ball recovery and metronome-like passing makes for one of the league’s best and most complete midfields.
With this signing, Wolves have every key characteristic covered, not to mention excellent leadership qualities and experience at the highest level.
You can view more tactical analysis using the video below:
The Expert View
We spoke to Alex Brice, founder of Football Wonderkids, to give to us some more insight into Nunes:
“Matheus, for me in the Primeira Liga, is the player who gives the most guarantees.
“This is a player that can play at the six role, that can play in the eight role, and if he has to, he can be the one making the final pass.
“In my opinion, this is a stepping stone for Matheus. You guys will easily double (your money) with him.”
In regards to his main qualities, Alex said:
“Definitely expect one of the best box-to-box midfielders straight off the bat. He’s perfect for the Premier League.
“I’m so surprised you guys got him. Wolves fans, be happy about this one. It’s such a good deal.
“He’ll have an instant impact. You should expect a player that could be playing for Liverpool and add quality (to the Liverpool midfield)”
On Nunes’ career so far, Alex explained:
“The biggest loser here is Ruben Amorim. Matheus won’t be (happy) either, it’s not that he doesn’t want to go to Wolves, going to the Prem is a big opportunity for him, but he loves the core at Sporting.
“He was working at a cafe four or five years ago and now he’s going to the Prem. It’s a ‘started from the bottom’ type story.
“Mentally he is a very strong person because he went from rags to riches, and I really value those types of people.”
Discussing the reception from Portuguese fans, Alex said:
“Honestly Portuguese fans love it because the fact of the matter is Portugal wants to see Portuguese people do well outside (overseas).
“Seeing people succeed in England at Wolves in the Premier League, the best league in the world, we all accept there’s a lot movement in Portugal.”
With an away game coming up fast this weekend against Tottenham, Wolves will be hoping their new star man will be in full viewing for his Premier League debut. With the rebuild under Lage picking up pace, this truly does feel like a signing which could propel Wolves back into the picture for European qualification.