Wolves have been fantastic since returning to the Premier League two seasons ago.
Nuno Espirito Santo has turned them into a well organised outfit who play with a relentless energy and a strong belief. Those traits alone didn’t take them to a second consecutive seventh place finish, however – Nuno’s actually got a lot of talented individual’s in his squad.
That is both a good and bad thing for Wolves. Presently, Nuno has a squad that is strong enough to compete for a place in European football. The problem is that many of his team will have big ambitions and will be wanting to play at the highest possible level.
Unfortunately, Wolves will likely become a victim of their own success. Doing so well raises a player’s profile and attracts interest from the biggest clubs. Loyalty only goes so far in football and players only have a certain amount of time to win things. They won’t admit it publicly, but many of the Wolves players will be using the club as a stepping stone for greater success – that’s the sad reality.
We’ve seen that already this window. Champions Liverpool announced on Saturday that they had completed a deal for Diogo Jota. Meanwhile, earlier in the window, Matt Doherty left for Spurs for a relatively cheap fee in a deal that baffled Wolves fans.
Though Jota wasn’t always a starter, he is certainly someone Nuno wanted to keep hold of and he was still a relatively integral part of their recent success. The deal was wrapped up very quickly in truth as Jota immediately grasped the opportunity to sign for a massive club like Liverpool. Doherty did the same with Spurs as he wanted to play under a proven winner in José Mourinho.
Those two particular situations prove that the board do need to prepare for the possibility of a mass exodus, one that has arguably already started.
Realistically, how long will it be until the likes of Adama Traoré, Raúl Jiménez and Rúben Neves follow suit? A year, maybe two at best and that’s if Wolves get lucky or somehow manage to defy the odds and qualify for the Champions League. The best thing the club can do is get ready for the unfortunate inevitability that they will lose some of their best players.
That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom for Wolves fans though. Even the biggest clubs sell their main men. Look at Arsenal, who for years were forced to replace their stars at the Emirates. Chelsea let go of Eden Hazard before the start of last season. Heck, Real Madrid even let Cristiano Ronaldo leave after he’d won them their fourth Champions League in five years. Players leave for different challenges all the time. That’s football.
And we’ve seen that the so called ‘smaller’ clubs can survive the aftermath of selling their best assets – but only if they get the recruitment right. Look at Leicester for example. They’ve sold N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Harry Maguire in the past few years and only narrowly missed out on the top four last season.
In fairness to Wolves’ owners, they have brought in some decent talent to help rebalance the numbers, with Barcelona’s Nélson Semedo set to be Nuno’s newest signing. Recruitment is the blueprint to success, and so far at least, the club have proven that they want to continue competing at the level they currently are playing at by bringing in fresh faces.
The project Nuno has built has been nothing short of remarkable and interest in Wolves’ squad is testament to their success on the pitch. Let’s just hope that club continue to get their recruitment right because quite frankly, it would be a shame to see them decline.