Pep Guardiola comments on Matheus Nunes show Man City transfer was meant to be – Isaac Johnson

With Kevin De Bruyne sidelined until the new year, the Portugal star has the chance to show he too can be part of the next phase of Pep Guardiolas evolution. His arrival may please some teammates and strike fear into others.

Nunes, who turned 25 on Sunday, has only played an attacking midfield role six times since his move to England, having largely been used as a central midfielder and sometimes as a wide man. So he may not come in as a direct replacement for De Bruyne.

If played elsewhere, it would allow Phil Foden to occupy the attacking midfield role, although Julain Alvarez might have something to say about that. Nunes is very much of the Bernardo Silva ilk in terms of physique and skillset, albeit operates more centrally.

Perhaps on the other side of the midfield table is Kalvin Phillips, who will be concerned he might not match last seasons tally of two Premier League starts when Nunes arrives. Maybe the signing of Mateo Kovacic had already ignited that fear anyway.

While the Croat has four Champions League winners medals under his belt, Nunes had caught Guardiolas eye in the competition around 18 months ago. The then 23-year-old was part of the Sporting Lisbon team that suffered a 5-0 drubbing against City in the last 16 in February 2022.

The Portuguese side may have walked home with their tail between their legs but Nunes ears will have been piqued by Guardiolas post-match comments. The Catalan coach said: Sporting are a fantastic team, they are the champions of Portugal, which have a very strong league, with Porto and Benfica.

They change the ball well, they have fast and intelligent players. I would say that Matheus Nunes is one of the best players in the world today.”

Guardiola is not one to shy away from seemingly outlandish statements but he would have been one of those unsurprised to see Nunes make a Premier League move six months later.

If not for De Bruynes injury, Wolves may have been able to keep hold of him for more than 12 months but Guardiola has shown his keenness through being undeterred by a rejected first bid of 47m. A mere 6m and a transfer request later and Guardiola has his man.

Nunes fits the typical Guardiola player profile of being smart and athletic, as was referenced in his praise of Sporting 18 months ago. Nunes has also shown his hardiness too, featuring 41 times for Wolves last season.

How Guardiola will use Nunes will be intriguing. Who initially saw Jack Grealish as a left winger or Julian Alvarez as an attacking midfielder or John Stones as a defensive midfielder?

Perhaps calling him Bernardo 2.0 is too simplistic and inaccurate but Nunes certainly has the capacity to fit into the Johan Cruyff Total Football mould, a mindset Guardiola was inspired by.

Nunes had 57 touches, 46 passes and a pass accuracy of 87 per cent for Sporting on that Champions League night against City. That seems to have ignited an impression upon Guardiola that has stayed and matured since.