Transfer Talk: Neves quality could lead to bidding war
Ruben Neves is a target for a host of top European sides as the January transfer window enters its final fortnight.
The Portuguese international has starred for Wolves since his arrival in 2017 but could be keen on a new challenge at a bigger club.
Liverpool, Newcastle and Barcelona are all said to be interested but will have a tough task prying him away mid-season.
With his talents in demand, we turn the spotlight on the midfield general as Wolves prepare to face Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday.
Neves, 25, is known for his direct and excellent range of passing — something Liverpool have lacked in recent games.
So far this season, the midfielder has attempted 1,095 passes in the Premier League, with only 10 players registering more.
That is an impressive achievement considering Wolves are fighting to beat the drop under Julen Lopetegui.
Neves also ranks fifth for the most long passes completed (113) and 10th for most touches of the ball (1,372).
Compared to veteran Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson, there is little argument to suggest the England international could give the Wolves star a run for his money.
Neves averages 2.11 shots per 90 compared to Henderson's 1.22 and ranks above him in passing accuracy, long passes completed and crosses per game.
Willing to compromise
Neves finds himself in a difficult position in the Midlands as he still has 18 months left on his contract.
Should a club decide to make a move, Wolves would demand a hefty fee for one of their best players — with reports valuing the club's No8 at around the £60million mark.
The maestro has options and time on his side. He could stay put and see out his contract, leaving him free to join a side of his choice when his deal expires.
Liverpool have proven they are willing to spend big in recent seasons and Newcastle are attempting to build a squad capable of challenging for honours.
With Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago all approaching or the wrong side of 30, it would not be a surprise to see the Merseysiders go all in for Neves.
Lopetegui has moved Wolves out of the relegation zone since arriving in November and will not be keen to let any of his stars leave.
Responding to the Neves rumours, he said: "We are not thinking about the possibility of moving out players, we are thinking about the possibility of bringing them in.
"I understand the interest in the transfer window but our interest is only for the match. Neves is a fantastic player, he is a Wolves player and he will continue being a Wolves player."
Speaking at the start of the campaign, Neves opened the door for a move. He said: "If you ask me at the end of last season I would have said 'I will leave' but I'm still here, so we never know what's going to happen.
"Everyone knows what football is about, what our lives are about. Our careers are really short, we need to take the opportunities we have.
"Of course, all of us have dreams and we need to live those dreams in a short space of time. Let's see what happens. I cannot say too much about it."
Where would he fit?
Liverpool already have an expert passer in former Bayern Munich star Thiago, while Newcastle boast Bruno Guimaraes in their ranks.
Henderson currently plays in a No8 role and is often the one who looks to drive forward with the ball and switch the play or put in a teasing cross.
It is unlikely he will remain a starter over the next few years and Neves is an obvious replacement for the 32-year-old stalwart.
His direct passing would work in perfect harmony with Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez, who often look to run in behind.
Newcastle are still in the process of refreshing their squad and with Guimaraes injured could look to bring in Neves to challenge him.
Although it seems likely that he will stay in the Premier League, Neves could also have a number of options available elsewhere in Europe.
And he could go a long way to proving he deserves a big move by starring against City at the Etihad on Sunday.