Nuno Espirito Santo has hailed Joao Moutinho as one of ‘the very important signings’ Wolves have made.
Moutinho has been masterful in the Molineux midfield this season. Some fans have said the 32-year-old Portugal international is the best they have seen play for the club, while he has topped numerous online fan polls for player of the year.
The former Sporting and Porto midfielder, who joined for a bargain £5m from Monaco last summer, is one of four Premier League ever presents at Wolves in 2018-19 with Matt Doherty, Conor Coady and Raul Jimenez. He has delighted the head coach.
“He’s been very good. Joao is a different player; he’s an experienced player, a European champion so he gives a lot of things to the team,” said Nuno. “One of those is experience, but quality and talent as well.
“But I think all of the signings we have made this year have been very important during this season. Some of those players that came in have had good moments, some of those are still growing.”
Some, including Burnley striker Peter Crouch, are predicting Wolves will spend big this summer. But supporters would feel it might be difficult to top the impact of the mercurial Moutinho.
Moutinho has helped Ruben Neves alongside him in central midfield, and, although some say the latter has not scaled the heights of last season, Nuno is convinced the 22-year-old has had a superb first season in the Premier League.
“Ruben is growing. He had a fantastic season last time and he’s having a fantastic season this time so he is growing,” added the boss. “He is young so he still has a long way to go to improve himself.”
Another player Nuno sees as growing is Adama Traore. The head coach was seen hugging the electric £18m signing after the 3-1 win against Arsenal last week. Traore had replaced Jimenez in the 82nd minute and Nuno believes the 23-year-old former Middlesbrough and Villa man has special qualities but need time to realise his potential.
“I will not compare Adama to anyone. Adama is unique and special and we truly believe he can improve and give good things to the team,” he said.
Back-to-back wins have left Wolves three points clear in seventh place and favourites to capture the final Europa League spot, for which seventh will qualify provided Manchester City win the FA Cup.
Nuno has steadfastly refused to talk about the prospect of Wolves qualifying for Europe for the first time in 39 years and instead insists the season should be judged by the satisfaction of the supporters.
“I don’t judge things this way. Let’s not be judged by where we are in the table, let’s be judged by the joy our fans have from this season’s play. Is that not good?” said Nuno.
“For me it’s the process and the growing of the team – how we’ve been able to do things, how we’ve been able to always find solutions and keep on improving ourselves.
“We began on that pitch over there almost two years ago. So if you judge by that view, it would not be fair to the work of the players. They have worked very hard so we work very hard.
“You think this season is a good season already? Why? That’s the point – we’ve played extremely well.”