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Ruben Neves’ agent pitching Arsenal transfer

The Portuguese midfielder looked to be headed to Barcelona but the move may have collapsed, at least for now.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images

Ruben Neves had all but signed his new contract with Barcelona. The Portuguese midfielder, who joined Wolves from Porto six years ago, wants to move on from three consecutive seasons playing for a Premier League afterthought. In two of those seasons, his 5 or 6 goals, a decent haul for a midfielder, tied for the team lead. I can’t really blame him. He’s talented enough for European football and wants a new challenge.

Unfortunately these days when you’re dealing with Barca, money is always an issue. The Spanish club don’t have the funds for a straight buy and were looking to include Ansu Fati as makeweight. Fati, however, rejected the move, which has scuppered the deal for now.

Enter Neves’ agent Jorge Mendes. He’s reportedly working the phones, trying to get Arsenal and Newcastle in for his client. You’ll recall the Gunners were linked with Neves in the past. And it seems as if everybody wants to take a whack at the Newcastle cash pinata.

There were reports in late May that Neves had “rejected” a move to Arsenal in favor of the proposed Barcelona swap deal, but beyond that there hasn’t been any reported interest from the Gunners’ side. And I’m skeptical there ever was anything on the table from Arsenal. My guess is that supposed £45M deal was the product of agents and clubs (but not Arsenal) playing the transfer game, trying to apply pressure to force the move to Spain.

Neves would be a decent fallback option for the Gunners should the expected Declan Rice move fall through and Arsenal aren’t able to buy Moises Caicedo with the money that had been earmarked for Rice. But there is a reason Wolves have slapped a £45M price tag on Neves, beyond him being a wantaway in the final year of his contract. He’s older (26) than both Rice (24) and Caicedo (21) and isn’t as complete of a player.

Neves is a destroyer at the base of the midfield. He’s a solid but not spectacular progressive passer. He likes to shoot from distance and will score the occasional highlight reel goal, but more often than not, those long range attempts harmlessly surrender possession. He’s not a progressive carrier of the ball nor does he create that many shots.

The big question is how much is he limited by playing for a middling to below-average Wolves side. When you’re arguably the best player at your club, a lot of responsibility falls to you. Neves has to shield a bottom third defense and link the play to one of the worst attacks in the Premier League. The players around him can generously be described as enigmatic but inconsistent. It’s tough to shine without much help, and Neves hasn’t had much to work with over the past few seasons.

Might he shine brighter playing for a better side like Arsenal or Newcastle? Probably so. How much and whether he’d be a good fit in North London is a far more difficult question to answer. I’m glad that I don’t have to suss it out. It’s probably a moot point, too. A lot would have to happen for Ruben Neves to end up at Arsenal. We shouldn’t 100% rule it out, but it’s highly unlikely.