Matheus Nunes Man City transfer: What’s the latest?

Manchester City reportedly had a £47m opening bid for Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Matheus Nunes knocked back, but are back at the negotiation table to try and secure the services of the 24-year-old Portuguese midfielder in the final days of the summer window. 

It’s interesting to see City react so decisively to the loss of Kevin de Bruyne, who limped out of the opening game of City’s season – against Burnley – with a recurrence of the injury that saw him substituted midway through the first half of the Champions League final. 

And with Ilkay Güngogan leaving the club this summer, City do look slightly light in the middle of the park. Liverpool had previously been interested in securing the midfielder’s services at Anfield, and his £38m move last summer to Molineux was one that City also kept an eye on at the time. 

So this is not a reflex deal by any stretch of the imagination, but the severity of City’s interest might well have been brought forward by their circumstances this summer. 

Matheus Nunes of Wolverhampton Wanderers is a Manchester City target
Photo by Icon Sport

The KDB injury

Kevin de Bruyne was substituted in the 36th minute of City’s ultimately victorious game against Inter Milan in the final of the 2022/23 Champions League, with a hamstring tear that left him unable to continue. 

He was rehabilitated through the summer, traveling on the club’s pre-season tour of the US, but not participating; and then was reintroduced as a second-half substitute in the Community Shield. 

He made his full return against Burnley in the opening game of the Premier League season, but was withdrawn in the 23rd minute after a similar problem. 

After the game, Pep stated that “It is the same place and position as the Champions League (injury) and he will be out for a while.”

De Bruyne went for a scan a few days later, and then had to undergo surgery, with the recovery time this time around set to be longer. City do not expect to see De Bruyne feature again until 2024, with Pep saying that “it is not one or two weeks. It's four or five months.”

There is also the fact to consider that De Bruyne is now 32 years old, and whilst City remain convinced that he has another few years at a world class level, injuries at this stage in a career often result in players taking a while to reach their level again. 

As such, succession planning is worth taking into account, and in 24-year-old Nunes, they clearly see potential to reach the heights of the game. 

What do City see in Matheus Nunes?

It is worth mentioning here that stylistically, Kevin De Bruyne and Matheus Nunes are not particularly similar players. Whereas De Bruyne is an assist machine, capable of defence splitting passes that seem to defy logic, Nunes is a press-resistant, tenacious centre-midfielder capable of bypassing opposition with deft control and clever feints. 

Matheus Nunes evades Brighton & Hove Albion's Adam Webster in the Premier League
Photo by Icon Sport

People might question whether it makes sense to try and replace KDB this way, but in truth there are very few players capable of filling in for a player of De Bruyne’s quality. Without him, City will have to adapt, and if that means changing the way the midfield set up-operates, Pep won’t hesitate to do so.  

Matheus Nunes’ ability to take the ball in midfield under pressure and surge into open space is the kind of thing that can open games up, and with the quality that City have in transition – Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez, Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland – he would open up games for the more creatively minded players to thrive. 

On top of that, he’s a pressing machine. Aggressive and front-footed in terms of trying to win the ball back high up to create opportunities in chaos, he is a smart disruptor of play and technically gifted enough to make sure that he can see chances for both himself and others when he does so. 

It is certainly not like-for-like, but Matheus Nunes would offer Pep’s sky blue juggernaut another way of creating chances out of nothing. 

Why Man City should sign nunes
Photo by Icon Sport

Beneath the surface

In Matheus Nunes, City are planning for the long-term, but also adding someone who can make an immediate impact in the first team. Aside from KDB’s injury and Gündogan’s departure though, there is constant consternation over the long-term future of Bernardo Silva, who seems to be linked with an exit from the Etihad every single summer. 

Bernardo has just signed a one-year contract extension, which should put minds at ease for this season at least, but it is safe to say that City don’t expect him to be around forever. Barcelona’s interest is well-documented, and even if they don’t have the funds to make that happen this year, the suggestion seems to be that they will be returning next year to try again. 

As such, making plans for the future of this midfield seems like sensible forward planning from the City hierarchy. We have seen in the past that certain players take a little while to get up to speed with what Pep demands from them, so to have an option ready to fully blossom next season is the kind of decision making that we’ve seen from City over the past few years as they have ascended to the very top of the European game. 

Matheus Nunes celebrates scoring against Chelsea in the Premier League
Photo by Icon Sport

The knock on effects

One thing to keep an eye out for is what this would mean for Kalvin Phillips. Much has been rumoured this summer about a potential departure for the former Leeds man, although he has been steadfast in his belief that he is ready to show his true potential at the Etihad after a year of settling into Pep’s system. 

Liverpool’s reported interest may change that though. Further additions in the middle of the park would knock Phillips even further down the pecking order at Manchester City, and an opportunity to be a key part of a Liverpool team who look far lighter in midfield than City might be too good to turn down. 

With Rodri and Mateo Kovacic already ahead of Phillips in the selection queue, a deal for Matheus Nunes could end up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and makes Phillips seriously consider his position at Manchester City. 

 


Writer Jack Collins collaborated with the Football Whispers team in 2023.