Club/Country Number-Swaps, no. 3: Wolverhampton Wanderers and Portugal
Following promotion to the Premier League in 2018, Wolverhampton Wanderers spent money on 11 new players (nine permanent transfers and two loan fees).
In terms of price, the £5m to Monaco for João Moutinho ranked seventh on that list, primarily due to the fact that he was 31 by that stage. However, with 113 senior international caps won, the experience he was bringing to Molineux was of huge value.
Moutinho had worn number 8 for Monaco and during his time at Porto prior to that, having had 28 while with Sporting CP. At international level, he had number 10 for Portugal at Euro 2008, but since then he had donned number 8 for his country. His favoured digit was unavailable at Wolves though, as it was in the possession of his compatriot Rúben Neves. Moutinho opted for 28 instead.
Neves had joined Wolves the previous year and was a key factor in their 2017-18 promotion. Also a Porto alumnus, he had worn a 6 for them – positionally appropriate, albeit moreso on the continent than the UK – having started off with 36. He did wear 8 on his first start for Portugal, against Luxembourg in 2015, having been called up as a replacement for the injured Moutinho.
He wasn’t able to take 6 when he joined Wolves at Danny Batth had the shirt and, while 7 was up for grabs after Danny Henry’s departure and might have been fitting – it’s his surname backwards, after all – another Portuguese player, Ivan Cavaleiro, took that, dropping down from number 50.
Neves often wore 6 for Portugal underage sides but, with José Fonte possessing that for the senior side and Moutinho continuing to don 8, Neves briefly wore 13 before settling on 18 during the 2018-19 season. That was what he was assigned for the delayed Euro 2020 and Moutinho’s continued hold on the number 8 also had a knock-on effect for another English-based player.
Bruno Fernandes has a bond with 8, having worn it for Udinese and Sporting – when he arrived at Manchester United, Juan Mata still had 8 and so Fernandes opted for 18 before switching in the summer of 2022, when Mata left. At international level, he wore 16 at the 2018 World Cup and then 11 at Euro 2020 – Bernardo Silva had 11 in 2018 but he switched to 10 (previously worn by João Marío) for the Euros.
Now 36, João Moutinho has dropped down the pecking order for Portugal and his exclusion from the World Cup squad presumably means the end of his international career. In his absence in September, Fernandes was the player to accede to number 8, with Neves still in 18.