It is perhaps a sign of both the times and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ statement of intent on joining the elite of English football, that they were able to sign a player of João Moutinho’s calibre in the 2018 Summer transfer window.
Although six months past his 32nd birthday, Moutinho has made it clear from his performances in Wolves’ double-pronged chase for a European place that he had no intention of coming to Molineux for one last hurrah and paycheck.
Not blessed with the biggest of frames at just 5 foot 7 inches, Moutinho has nevertheless carved out an immensely successful career in Portugal – with Sporting and Porto; France – with Monaco; and now England with Wolves. Add into the mix 113 caps for Portugal and nobody could ever accuse Moutinho of underachieving.
A midfielder who is equally at home in a flat line-up or a diamond shape, Moutinho’s goalscoring record is not exactly stellar, but his creativity and ball-winning attributes more than makeup for any perceived deficiencies in this area.
Making his breakthrough at Sporting in 2005, Moutinho quickly became known for his reliability and consistency. In his first full season in the team, Moutinho played every minute of every match – a remarkable achievement for one so young.
Success came to Moutinho in his five-year spell at Sporting, as he helped the club twice win the Portuguese Cup and reach the UEFA Cup final.
Throughout much of his career, Moutinho has shown the maturity and sense of purpose that led him to become vice-captain at Sporting at just nineteen and full captain a year later. However, although a popular figure amongst the Sporting fans, relations were strained in 2008 when a move to Premier League Everton was mooted only to fall through at the last moment.
Two years later Porto were said to be interested in signing Moutinho and much to the displeasure of the president of Sporting, José Eduardo Bettencourt, who described Moutinho as ‘a rotten apple’, the transfer was completed on the eve of the 2010-11 season.
Moutinho’s debut season with Porto was an unqualified success, as it culminated in the domestic League and Cup double being achieved alongside success in the Europa League for a unique treble. However, Moutinho was once again an ever-present, and once again barely contributed in the goal-scoring stakes., with just two goals all season.
Further success followed in the shape of two further successive league title wins before Moutinho finally left Portugal in 2013 courtesy of a move to Monaco.
Signed alongside club-mate James Rodriguez for a combined €70 million, Moutinho established himself in the side and, contributing a single goal, played more than thirty times in all competitions as Monaco finished runners-up in the 2013-14 season.
The following season was one of steady consolidation combined with Moutinho’s trademark consistency as he played more than fifty times. This season saw a third-place finish secured for the principality team.
2015-16 saw another third-place finish and so once more qualification to the Champions League was secured.
2016-17 was a glorious year for Monaco and Moutinho. The French League title was secured as well as an unlikely run in the Champions League which took the side all the way to the semi-finals and an eventual aggregate defeat to Juventus. Highlights of the run included a 6-6 aggregate draw against Manchester City in the round of sixteen, with Monaco prevailing on the away goals rule.
In July 2018, Moutinho signed for Wolves in a deal reputed to be worth £5 million. Seen as a statement of intent by Wolves’ owners, the move could also be interpreted as a short-term one due to Moutinho’s advancing years. However, although his goalscoring record shows no sign of any immediate or noticeable improvement with just one goal so far this season, Moutinho has been instrumental in Wolves’ progress to the Semi-final of the FA Cup and a top-seven league position.
On the international front, Moutinho has 113 caps for his country, Portugal, and has managed seven goals. Making his international debut at the age of eighteen in 2005, Moutinho has subsequently appeared in two World Cup finals tournaments and three European Championships. In 2016 he was part of the successful Portugal team that won the European Championships in France.
With a further year outstanding on his contract, Moutinho will probably feature next season as Wolves look to build on the progress made since their promotion last season. As time begins to catch up with him, his appearances may become more limited in number, but Wolves know that as well as his undoubted talent on the field, Moutinho’s assets include his reliability and level-headedness, and it is for this reason that he is a good example to others.
Indeed, it would be reasonable to assume that once Moutinho does finally hand his boots up, a career in management or coaching awaits.