Matheus Nunes: From working in a bakery to becoming Wolves’ record signing

Matheus Nunes: From working in a bakery to becoming Wolves’ record signing

Matheus Nunes: From working in a bakery to becoming Wolves’ record signing

Matheus Nunes makes his debut for Wolves
Matheus Nunes is set to make his home debut for Wolves this weekend

Sporting Lisbon coach Ruben Amorim had a special way of encouraging Matheus Nunes during training sessions.

Amorim often approached the young Portuguese midfielder and told him that he had to work harder than his colleagues. The reason was simple: Nunes had to pay for his manager’s signature.

He was joking, but maybe not entirely.

After taking the unprecedented gamble of paying 10 million euros to a manager whose top-flight experience was close to zero, club president Frederico Varandas made a bold prediction denying any concerns over the club’s finances. the agreement.

“I have absolutely no doubt that Nunes alone will pay for Amorim. You can write it,” he said in a May 2020 Channel 11 interview.

It was a liability for a boy who until the age of 19 had only played in lower leagues and had yet to make his senior debut for the Lisbon side.

But Varandas couldn’t have been more right.

A month later, Nunes would feature in the Portuguese league for the first time – the start of an upward trajectory that would see Wolverhampton Wanderers break their transfer record to sign the 23-year-old for £38m this summer.

In just over two years, he has gone from a late bloomer to a player hailed by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola as “one of the best in the world” and is set to feature in Portugal’s squad. the World Cup in November.

“We heard a lot of disparaging comments asking why we were investing in a kid with no previous career. But we knew those people were wrong,” said Alexandre Santos, who coached Nunes at Estoril and Sporting and now works at Petro de Luanda. . BBC Sport.

“He hit the ground running. Not only was he playing well; he instantly became the best player in our U23 team, leaving behind highly rated youngsters like Daniel Braganca and Bruno Paz.

“I remember we had a conversation shortly after he arrived at the club and I asked him to be patient. He replied: ‘I have all the patience in the world, Sir. I had so hard to get here that I’m in no hurry.'”

The Brazilian-born sensation waited for Wolves to come knocking last week. He is now set to start his first Premier League home game this Sunday against Newcastle.

Leicester let him escape their grasp

Nunes didn’t have it easy growing up in Rio de Janeiro, and for a time his mother Catia Nunes feared he had wandered off.

“My mum always says she doesn’t know how I never became a thief or a drug dealer,” he told Sporting TV. “I was a bit of a nomad in Brazil – I moved 10 times and even lived in a favela. I was 13 when I arrived in Portugal.”

It was then that the midfielder started his career with Ericeirense – a semi-professional club in the seaside town of Ericeira, where his family had chosen to settle. Despite his obvious potential, he spent all of his formative years with them, unable to attract interest from elsewhere.

It’s not that he hasn’t tried – Benfica, Braga, Lille and even Leicester City have invited him for trials.

“He trained with the Leicester Under-23 team for about a week but, in the end, they said he was probably not what they were looking for. They preferred stronger players , faster and more ‘vertical’. He was very lean, so they promised to keep him on the radar and that was it,” recalled Ruben Franco, a former coach who accompanied him.

“At least he had the chance to take pictures with Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante and Robert Huth. They would win the Premier League that season.”

Under pressure to bring home money, Nunes then found a job serving coffee and pastries at a local bakery.

“It was a time when he doubted himself and wondered if he had the talent to succeed as a professional. He was earning around 150 euros a month as a footballer and needed more to help his family” , explains Franco.

“He once said: ‘My dream is to make a living from football. If I can do that, I will be fulfilled.’ He probably is now.”

“He represents the beauty of football”

Matheus Nunes wins the Portuguese Super Cup
The 23-year-old played a crucial role after receiving a chance from Sporting

It took longer than usual for most elite footballers, but after leaving Ericeirense for Estoril in mid-2018 and then six months later to join Sporting, Nunes finally got to where he needed to be. always wanted to be.

Once given his chance, he quickly made up for lost time at Alvalade.

During Sporting’s winning 2020-21 campaign, the former baker scored crucial goals against Benfica and Braga and had a regular impact off the bench.

The following season, he burst into the XI after Joao Mario’s switch to intercity rivals Benfica and didn’t look back. He impressed so much that he ended up dragging Brazil and Portugal into a fight for his international future.

In the end, the Portuguese won it and got a footballer who remains as hard-working and competitive on the pitch as he was in Ericeira.

He has seen a bit of everything in life and will bring this experience to Molineux.

“It’s not every day that you see someone with their youth career go as far as they did, but that’s the beauty of football,” Santos said. “He represents it.”

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