Who is Matheus Nunes? The lowdown on reported Newcastle target and what he could offer the Magpies

Somewhat out of the blue, Newcastle United have been linked with a potential move for Sporting Lisbon midfielder Matheus Nunes.
Matheus Nunes. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP) (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images)Matheus Nunes. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP) (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images)
Matheus Nunes. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP) (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images)

According to a report from Portuguese publication O Jogo, via Sport Witness, the Magpies have made an approach for the 22-year-old as they look to bolster their ranks before the end of January.

It’s a widely-acknowledged fact that Steve Bruce is in the market for another central midfielder this month, and for much of the transfer window Leicester City talent Hamza Choudhury has been touted as a target.

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But could that be about to change with this latest update from the continent?

We’ve gathered all the information you need to know about Nunes and any potential deal that the Toon Army might look to pursue.

Who is Matheus Nunes?

The 22-year-old is a Brazilian-born central midfielder who also holds Portuguese citizenship.

Nunes started his career with GDU Ericeirense in the lower leagues of Portugal’s footballing pyramid before earning a professional contract with second-tier outfit Estoril Praia in 2018.

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Sporting made their move for him a year later, and he made his senior debut for the club in May 2020.

Since then, the rangy talent has clocked up 32 appearances as a semi-regular starter in the Portuguese capital, and scored his first goal in a 2-0 win over SC Braga earlier this month.

What would he offer Newcastle?

Nunes generally operates as a central midfielder, but Sporting aren’t averse to playing him in a deep-lying defensive midfield role, or even out on the flank.

Standing at 6’0”, he brings a decent physical presence to the middle of the park, and his stats would suggest that he has a combative streak to him too.

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Taking Toon mainstay Jonjoe Shelvey as a point of comparison, the Brazilian has contested 15.88 more duels per 90 minutes this season, as per Wyscout.

Likewise, he’s made more interceptions and won more than twice as many aerial duels per game in 2020/21.

One of the key things that Bruce is seemingly looking for this month is a midfielder who has the legs to get up and down the field in a way that many of Newcastle’s current midfield cohort perhaps can't.

Again, Nunes looks to tick this box.

The 22-year-old has made 5.51 dribbles per 90 minutes to Shelvey’s 1.3 this term, and he also made 2.15 progressive runs per game to the Englishman's 0.61.

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None of that physicality appears to come at too much of a cost to his quality on the ball either.

Even in his passing – an area in which Shelvey generally looks at his best – Nunes has a pass completion that is 7.4% higher than the 28-year-old’s, while his xA (expected number of assists per game) is better too.

If Bruce is in the market for an all-action midfielder, Nunes looks to fit the bill.

What form would a deal take?

According to O Jogo, Newcastle initially approached Sporting with a loan-to-buy offer.

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Upon the completion of a temporary stint on Tyneside, the Magpies would be obliged to pay a fee of £10 million in the summer to make the deal permanent.

The suggestion of a loan deal is certainly in-keeping with the widely held belief that Newcastle don’t have a great deal, if anything, to spend this month.

O Jogo’s report does state that Sporting have knocked back the Toon Army’s initial approach, and could be reluctant to part with the player, but Nunes has made just five starts this season and is far from being a vital member of the Portuguese giants’ squad.

Expect to see plenty more speculation surrounding a potential deal between now and deadline day.