Journalist Pete O’Rourke thinks Sporting Lisbon midfielder Joao Palhinha could be the player to fill the void left behind by Ruben Neves if he decides to leave Wolves in the summer.
Neves is into his fifth season at Wolves, and he still has over two years left on his contract at Molineux, but his future at the club has been the subject of speculation in recent transfer windows.
What’s the latest transfer news involving Neves?
The 24-year-old was linked with a move to Arsenal last summer, yet he ended up staying at Wolves after the north London club decided to hand Granit Xhaka a new contract rather than allowing him to join Roma.
However, it has been reported that the Gunners are still interested in acquiring Neves’ services, and they could pursue the playmaker at the end of the season.
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What has O’Rourke said about Neves?
O’Rourke has hinted that he would not be surprised if Neves departs Wolves when the 2021/22 season concludes.
However, he does not believe the Portuguese international would be a big loss if Wolves manage to sign Palhinha, who they have been linked with in recent days, to take his spot in central midfield.
He told GIVEMESPORT: “In the summer, if Ruben Neves wants to leave, Palhinha might be a ready-made replacement.”
Would Palhinha be a good replacement for Neves?
Palhinha, who Transfermarkt value at £22.4m, is yet to play outside of his homeland but he has already had a successful career at Sporting, winning the league title last season.
This experience should hold him in good stead for the Premier League, plus, at 6 foot 3, he has the physical attributes to succeed at the highest level.
When comparing his numbers to Neves, Palhinha has had a fine campaign. He has scored three league goals to Neves’ two, and has received an average match rating of 7.26 from WhoScored, while Neves’ mark is significantly lower at 6.80.
Palhinha also holds the edge when it comes to completed tackles (3.4 to 2.2), interceptions (1 to 0.9) and successful dribbles per match (0.7 to 0.6).
Therefore, it seems that he is ready to take over the mantle from Neves and could even push Wolves’ midfield to the next level if he opts to move to the Midlands club ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.
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