Wolverhampton Wanderers waltzed their way to the Championship title last season, using a recruitment model previously unseen in the Championship and to devastating effect. This was in large part thanks to their ties with agent Jorge Mendes, who facilitated transfers for many of his clients, even though their ability was undoubtedly above the level of English football’s second tier.
Now top-flight football has been secured, Wolves proposition has become even more attractive, although Ronaldo remains out of the question, Mendes has an extensive roster of players at his disposal who would develop the West Midlands outfit.
Three of last season’s most successful loan signings have already been secured on permanent transfers, Willy Boly arrived from FC Porto for £10million after an excellent season in the Championship – highlighted by his inclusion in the Team of the Season. He averaged more than two tackles and interceptions per game last season and will relish the challenge of the Premier League.
Another one of those loan signings was Diego Jota from Athletico Madrid, who recently committed his future to Wolves in a £12million transfer. From an inside left forward role last campaign he managed 17 goals and was comfortably their top scorer, so retaining his services was vital. If he can transition that form to the pinnacle of English football at 21 years of age, he will have a bright future ahead of him.
Benik Afobe is the last of those loan signing to be kept on, the former Bournemouth man joined in January and hit the ground running, scoring six in nine appearances. He’s one of the few members of the team with Premier League experience and in such a diverse squad this can only be a positive.
Though, in a curious turn of events and despite only signing for Wolves on the first of June, Afobe has already been linked with a move to Stoke City. It’s believed that he would earn Wolverhampton around £2million in profit, but considering they’ve already spent £22million on two other players this window, that amount appears futile. Providing Afobe’s arrival and subsequent departure doesn’t disrupt the dynamic amongst the squad and a suitable replacement is found this shouldn’t cause much concern.
Due to their financial backing from the Chinese conglomerate Fosun and association with Mendes Wolves have been linked with a host of new additions, unsurprisingly these are primarily Portuguese. Though John Ruddy made 23 clean sheets last season, Portugal stopper Rui Patricio had a move to Wolves fall through at the last moment but has since terminated his contract with Sporting CP after a violent incident with their own fans, despite spending 12 years at the club. Now a free agent the move is likely to go ahead. Although, if that deal fails to materialise then it would appear Jack Butland is a secondary target in goal.
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo reportedly also wishes to bolster his attacking options, allegedly targeting either Andre Silva or Ahamed Musa, but caution should be required as both players are currently lacking confidence based on poor form. Musa has failed to settle at Leicester and has only found the back of the net twice in 21 appearances. As well as this, he didn’t play a single minute of Premier League football last season and is firmly out of Claude Puel’s plans.
Meanwhile, Andre Silva had a turbulent debut season at AC Milan, he produced commanding displays in the Europa League, becoming the first player to score a European hat-trick for the Rossoneri since Kaka 12 years previous. But a succession of substitute appearances meant that he had to wait until March for his first goal in Calcio A.
Other than the uncertainty surrounding Benik Afobe’s bizarre profit-making exercise, no key players are expected to depart from Wolves this summer and the squad is large enough that depth will not be of concern to Nuno Espirito Santo. Instead, he is in the market for proven quality to cement Wolves status as a Premier League club once again.
Written by Harvey Sayer.