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Ruben Neves has been earmarked for the very top since he was a teenager.
Aged 18, he became the youngest player to ever captain a Champions League game when he led out Porto against Maccabi Tel Aviv.
His move to Wolves, then in the Championship, for a club-record fee in 2017 raised eyebrows, but his stunning season to lead them to the Premier League underlined his class.
Over the years, Neves has been linked with a host of top clubs including Manchester United and Liverpool but stayed put as an integral part of Wolves’ squad.
However, it now appears his four-year spell in the West Midlands may be coming to an end.
Wolves could be set to offload Ruben Neves this summer with Arsenal said to be keen
(Image: Getty Images)
With Nuno Espirito Santo departing as manager, a rebuild is underway at Molineux with a need to raise funds in order to invest elsewhere without falling foul of Financial Fair Play regulations.
It would appear Neves has emerged as a disposable figure capable of generating a big fee with Arsenal now emerging as the favourites for his signature.
According to the Daily Mail, Neves is ‘aware’ of Arsenal’s interest and has told teammates he is keen on a move to north London.
Wolves are seemingly plotting his departure, leaking that there is interest in Neves, with potential buyers saying that it is they being approached, rather than the other way around.
Thus it is looking increasingly like his time at Molineux might be up, and he could get the chance for the big move many expected to be in the cards several years ago.
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The Portuguese midfielder has generally remained tight-lipped on his future publicly, but he has been monitored by both Manchester United and Liverpool in the past.
After international team-mate Bruno Fernandes made his Red Devils' debut against Wolves, Neves gave a brief indication of his positive thoughts on United.
"I know him very well, I'm really happy for him,” Neves said. “He’s in a great club in a fantastic league.”
During his rise at Porto, Neves worked closely with Pep Ljinders, now Jurgen Klopp’s assistant at Liverpool.
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And Ljinders continues to admire his former star, noting in 2019 he is the “type of player that always interests us” when discussing if he could one day join the Reds.
“I know him very well, his ambition, his passion for the game, his professionalism. I know what he gives to the team and this type of player always interests us,” Ljinders told O Jogo in 2019.
“I recognised him when I saw him at Wolves. I saw technique, professionalism. I saw the 2013-14 player I knew.”
Neves also named Anfield as the Premier League’s best atmosphere during an interview with Sky Sports last year.
Neves has been earmarked for a top club since his early days at Porto
“After Molineux, of course, I’d need to say Anfield,” he said. “The noise, the stand behind the goal, when they start singing, it’s really loud and all the stadium goes with them.
“Of course, they are in a great moment, that helps, but it’s the most difficult atmosphere I’ve faced in the Premier League.”
Neves certainly appears to have a degree of respect for both Liverpool and United, although it is Arsenal who are considering making the first move.
The pedigree and experience of Neves is likely to mean his availability is of interest to several clubs and there is plenty of intrigue around how his future will play out over the summer.