Richard Hobbs gives his views on why Joao Moutinho should be crown Wolves Fancast player of the season.
Anyone with a passing knowledge of European football in the past decade from video games or watching the Champions League will have likely known of him prior to his arrival to these shores last summer. He had been linked with a move to the Premier League for pretty much his entire 20’s with it looking likely Spurs or Everton would sign him to be the fulcrum of their team.
A move England seemed to be off the cards when he moved to Monaco in 2013. At the age of 27, it’s not a bad location to play the remaining peak years of your career.
But when Wolves and equally importantly Uncle Jorge came calling last summer, an Indian summer in Compton was too good to refuse. I’m sure many from many thought he was moving to our nouveau riche club for one last big payday. Safe to say it didn’t take long for people to realise he wasn’t just he here for a payslip and his motivation to perform was more than apparent.
When he first stepped out at Molineux, he gave off an aura of someone who had been there, done that, and got a medal at the end of it. There always seemed to be a level or assurity but never an arrogance. It might just be because there hasn’t been a player of his stature at the club in my generation but I can’t remember a player combined a nonchalance like he was in an exhibition match with the intensity in every game more closer to related to playing in a cup final.
They say, at any level, the best players always want the ball. From the likes of Gazza and Maradona to that annoyingly good player you play against hungover on a Sunday. If Wolves are in possession, Moutinho is rarely more than 15 yards away to always be the first option.
His passing has been nothing short of exemplary. With confidence on the ball, he has no fear and all the confidence in the world to receive the ball and probe for gaps in the oppositions defensive lines.
It’s not even the accuracy of the passes which stand out, but each ball is weighted just right as he looked to dictate the tempo of play. His understanding of where all his teammates are positioned and his ability to think three moves ahead of everyone else is like nothing seen at Molineux before.
His awareness and understanding is not just when Wolves are on the ball. I described him a few months ago as the best tackler I’ve ever seen at Wolves, high praise considering Kevin Muscat has also played for the club. Despite his size, he knows how and when to win the ball back. His telepathic reading has allowed his to win countless interceptions all over the pitch.
I’m about 90% certain he can travel forwards in time and know exactly where he needs to be on the pitch at any time. Literally it’s the only reason I can think of as to why he’s in the right position all the time.
Above all else, Moutinho has shown he is a serial winner and demands it of those around him. Despite entering the swansong of his career, he rarely doesn’t start. Even in the cup run, he played when it would be easy to rest his aging legs.
This winning experience and mentality that has accompanied Moutinho to Wolves has continued the cultural change within the club to belong in the higher echelons of English football. The record against the Top 6 has been much praised, but Moutinho has been the little general on the pitch.
Looking back to when Wolves drew 1-1 to Manchester City, the image of Moutinho marshalling teammates to restrict City’s movement still sticks in my mind.
He was very good in the first half of the season, but with the change in formation at the turn of the year and Dendoncker coming in to take away the physical burden from Moutinho and Neves, he has reached another level.
It will be interesting to see how he plays next season and the year afterwards. Judging on this season, his fitness levels are those of an ultra marathon runner. If he can continue to be the medal-cladded veteran in this squad of hot-shot recruits, there’s no doubt his experience, leadership and ability with give his teammates something to aspire to.
It has got to a point where he doesn’t win match of the match anymore and the level he has set himself can be that much higher than those around him you have to exclude him from contention.
For me, it is not even if he is Wolves best player this season, but whether he is Wolves best ever player. But that’s a different blog for a different day.
Until then, 5 foot 7 and he’s football heaven. So please don’t take Moutinho away.
Does Moutinho get your vote?