Sporting sell Matheus Nunes to Wolves in €50 million deal

Matheus Nunes is the latest high-profile transfer from the Primeira Liga to the English Premier League. The Brazilian-born Portuguese midfielder joins Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Portuguese project.

Sporting had resisted offers for their midfield dynamo all summer but an offer of €50m (€45m upfront + €5m for back payments) could not be turned down. The 23-year-old is expected to complete the signing in time to make his Tottenham Hotspur debut on Saturday.

Sporting let down

Rumors that the Lisbon club would sell Nunes have been circulating all summer. Just last week, Nunes turned down an offer from West Ham to join England. Sporting coach Rúben Amorim said: “In the past, players were very keen to leave Sporting. Now they’re getting life-changing offers, and they want to stay. That is an excellent sign.”

A few days later, Nunes is all but gone pending medical checks and official confirmation. With the transfer taking place during Sporting’s preparations for Saturday night’s big clash with their Bwin Liga rivals, it is undoubtedly a major blow to the Lions’ ambitions to challenge for the title this season.

With Portugal international João Palhinha lost to Fulham earlier in the summer and central midfielder Daniel Bragança out for several months as he recovers from a serious knee ligament injury, it is inevitable that Sporting will look for a replacement.

Amorim has shown confidence in the domestic market, a policy that has proved successful and it is therefore no surprise that the likes of Braga’s Al Musrati and Vitória’s André Almeida have been touted as possible substitutes.

Nune’s classic rags to riches fairy tale

For Nunes himself, it’s the latest chapter in a heartwarming poverty-to-riches tale in which football is so fertile.

The Brazilian arrived in Portugal a decade ago as a 14-year-old, settling in the small coastal town of Ericeira 45 kilometers north of Lisbon, joining the local soccer team and helping his mother, with whom he worked very closely, in a pastry shop.

“Everything I’ve achieved, everything I’m going to achieve in my career will always be dedicated to my mother,” he said in an interview with Brazilian outlet UOL Esporte. “I never had a father. It’s not important to talk about the reasons, but I never had a father. My mother always took on the mother-father role and raised her three children on her own.”

Nunes soon stood out at Ericeirense and was spotted by Estoril, playing briefly before being signed by Sporting for a fee of less than €1m.

The President’s Promise

Shortly after the Nunes purchase, Frederico Varandas, President of Sporting, boldly declared: “The money generated from the future sale of Matheus Nunes alone will ensure that we hire Rúben Amorim.”

Varandas is fighting back criticism for paying Braga’s €10m release clause to lure the promising northern coach to the capital. At the time, the President’s claim made him the target of jokes, but he’s been proven right and then some.

Meteoric rise

Nunes gradually worked his way into the Sporting first team, aided by Amorim’s penchant for trusting youth. Although he was often on the bench with João Palhinha and João Mário, regulars in central midfield, Nunes played a key role in the Lisbon club’s first league title in 19 years, making 31 appearances.

Nunes, a strong No.8, is particularly adept at carrying the ball up front, his swelling runs from deep being a hallmark of his game. He also has a knack for scoring crucial goals and his late goals to secure victories at home against Benfica and away against Braga were absolutely crucial in ending Sporting’s title drought.

His game continued to improve last season, Nunes establishing himself as one of Portugal’s best players and earning the highest praise from Pep Guardiola, who described him as “one of the best players in the world” after Sporting played against Manchester City in the Champions League .

The heartbreaking decision

Another important milestone in the midfielder’s career came last year. Uncapped at the time, he was called up simultaneously by Brazil and Portugal to make his full national team debut. After asking for time to think it over, he chose Portugal.

“I spoke to both federations and after much thought I came to the conclusion that it would be better to play for Portugal. I think I’ll be happier here.” Nunes has 8 caps and 1 goal in a Portugal shirt to his credit.

By Tom Kundert

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