Why Murillo is heading for the Champions League rather than the Championship with Liverpool, Arsenal and Real Madrid among his suitors

The best young defender in Europe might be relegated at the end of the season but Murillo is heading for the Champions League not the Championship.

Nottingham Forest’s Brazilian centre-back has been a shining light in a hugely difficult season for the club, which is poised on a knife edge.

One point clear of Luton and with fixtures against fellow strugglers Everton, Burnley and Sheffield United to come, at least Forest’s future is in their hands. They are also appealing against the four-point deduction for breaking spending rules which has plunged them into trouble.

Yet with Murillo in the line-up, Forest will feel a whole lot better. When he gets the better of a rival attacker for the umpteenth time, supporters cry ‘You’ll never beat Murillo!’ – just as they did for Des Walker, one of the finest Forest centre-backs of modern times.

Forest need to sell this summer to ensure they escape further punishment next season, as the profitability and sustainability (PSR) vultures circle. Murillo is worth at least £50million in today’s market and has Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle watching him closely, as well as Paris St Germain, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Nottingham Forest centre back Murillo has been the shining light during a difficult season

The Brazilian looks destined for the Champions League with Europe's top clubs circling

The Brazilian looks destined for the Champions League with Europe’s top clubs circling


Nottingham Forest (4-2-3-1): Sels 5.5; Williams 6, Omobamidele 5.5, Murillo 8.5, Aina 6.5 (Tavares 89); Yates 6.5 (Dominguez 66, 6), Danilo 6.5 (Ribeiro 89); Reyna 5.5 (Origi 71, 6), Gibbs-White 7, Hudson-Odoi 6; Wood 6. Subs not used: Turner, Sangare, Toffolo, Niakhate, Montiel.

Scorers: Gibbs-White 45+2, Danilo 57

Booked: Gibbs-White, Murillo

Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo 6

Wolves (4-1-4-1): Sa 6; Semedo 6.5 (Fraser 88), Kilman 6.5, S Bueno 6.5, Toti 7; Lemina 6.5; Sarabia 5.5 (Chirewa 88), Gomes 6 (Hwang 59, 6.5), Doyle 6, Doherty 5 (H Bueno 59, 6); Cunha 8 (Traore 76, 6).

Subs not used: Bentley, King, Dawson, Barnett.

Scorers: Cunha 40, 62

Booked: Lemina, Gomes, Cunha

Manager: Gary O’Neil 6

Referee: Craig Pawson 6.5

Attendance: 29,604

Murillo is built like a rugby league player but is as light on his feet as a ballet dancer. He can overcome an attacker with speed, strength or skill. His clearance to deny Joao Gomes in the first half – a diving header close to his own line to prevent a certain goal – was one of the moments of Forest’s season. 

It all makes the £15million Forest paid Corinthians last August, after Murillo had made only 13 professional starts, one of the club’s best deals in an era of chaotic transfer spending. Murillo has clocked up more than 5,500 minutes in senior matches in the last 12 months, placing him near the top of the tree among players aged 21 and under.

Forest have good links with top agents in Brazil such as Giuliano Bertolucci, which paved the way for Danilo to join the club from Palmeiras in January 2023. Impressed with how Danilo developed under former boss Steve Cooper, Murillo’s representatives were happy for him to move to the City Ground too.

Even before Murillo had made a first-team appearance, Cooper could see he was special in the early training sessions and though there is still a rawness to his game at times, Murillo’s career is going in only one direction. There are definite similarities with his fellow Brazilian, Real Madrid centre-back Eder Militao, and it would be no surprise to see them team-mates in the Spanish capital one day.

For now, Murillo must help Forest stay up flight and this was a huge missed opportunity for Nuno Espirito Santo’s team. After falling behind to a spectacular strike from Matheus Cunha, one of four Brazilians in the starting line-ups, Morgan Gibbs-White and Danilo scored either side of half-time to put Forest in front. But then Cunha levelled after poor defending at a corner – the 22nd goal Forest have conceded from a set piece this term.

The development on Danilo, right, had encouraged Murillo's representatives to agree a move

The development on Danilo, right, had encouraged Murillo’s representatives to agree a move 

Wolves will likely have to sell again with Joao Gomes among those expected to have suitors

Wolves will likely have to sell again with Joao Gomes among those expected to have suitors

Wolves are in a far happier spot than Forest. Though their European challenge is fading amid an injury crisis, Gary O’Neil’s men are in no danger of relegation – which every Wolves fan would have accepted after a troubling off-season last year, which saw manager Julen Lopetegui depart less than a week before the season began.

But this may be a tricky summer. Like most clubs, Wolves need to be careful of PSR and will need to sell again – Gomes will have suitors, as will Cunha and Pedro Neto, though the latter’s injury problems may affect his price tag.

O’Neil had only 12 senior outfield players available for this one and repeated his wish for stronger squad next term. But how do Wolves make that happen with such limited room for manoeuvre in the transfer market? The 40-year-old will be offered a new contract at the end of the campaign and this will certainly form part of the discussions.

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