How Wolves Plan to Keep Big Names and Be Ready for Champions League Football

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportJuly 2, 2020

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Raul Jimenez of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 1-1 with Adama Traore during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool FC at Molineux on January 23, 2020 in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images)
B/R

As Wolverhampton Wanderers sit on the fringes of a UEFA Champions League position, it is easy to imagine this is as good as it gets.

But for those involved at the club, this is seen as just the beginning.

Star names Raul Jimenez, Adama Traore and Ruben Neves will all be linked with Europe's elite this summer, and manager Nuno Espirito Santo will be touted for top jobs across the continent. Yet there will be no panic at Molineux and little temptation to cash in and accept they have reached the summit.

On Saturday, they face Arsenal in a clash that can encourage their top-four push⁠—but more telling could be their clash on the final day of the campaign against Chelsea. That fixture might yet decide whether they earn a Champions League spot.

Wolverhampton Wanderers' Portuguese head coach Nuno Espirito Santo shouts from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at The London Stadium, in east London on June 20, 2020. (Phot
BEN STANSALL/Getty Images

Wolves have another path into next season's competition if it doesn't work out⁠—they are still in the UEFA Europa League and face Olympiacos in the round of 16 in August. 

If they do make it into the Champions League, a whole new world of opportunity will open up: new signings, new sponsorship opportunities and new supporters across the globe thanks to a fresh appeal. 

This was always the dream of owners involved with Fosun International Ltd when they took over the club in 2016. Back then, sources were declaring that a new era was on the horizon in Wolverhampton. The buyout had cost £45 million but so much more investment was to come.

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In 2017, a report in the Sunday People from Neil Moxley revealed how Nuno had been promised "limitless" funds in order to bring Champions League football to Wolves.

The Shanghai-based investment company, with links to super-agent Jorge Mendes, has indeed spent heavily since those early days, and success was quick to follow. They were promoted to the Premier League in 2018—a year earlier than they had planned—and now they are reaping the rewards of their ambitious vision.

Wolves have been growing their global brand even without Champions League football. Jimenez has brought thousands of Mexican supporters to the club's social channels, and the club's Spanish Twitter page has more than 100,000 followers. In China, they have a club shop, with merchandise specifically designed for that market.

Their official content is published in four languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. The club is targeting the U.S. market as the next priority.

The off-field success will come more naturally if Wolves manage to secure Champions League football. Their form since the season restarted has been emphatic: three games, three wins, three clean sheets.

They are determined to ensure this side does not soon fall prey to the biggest clubs in Europe.

In terms of the star names, Manchester City-linked Neves signed a five-year contract in 2018, and insiders are suggesting that an improved offer will be on the table for him this summer. Traore has been linked with Barcelona but has formed a great bond with the coaching staff and could also be in line for a new contract in the coming months to convince him there is no need to leave.

Star striker Jimenez is being pursued by Manchester United and Juventus, but his £90 million price tag will either scare off bidders or gives Wolves sufficient cash to replace him. Wolves have little interest in negotiating below that figure and are confident Champions League football would convince him to stay longer.

Nuno has one year remaining on his contract, but talks are continuing over a new agreement, with the expectation being that he will commit to staying.

The Wolves hierarchy is only focused on viewing the positives of building this team, so on top of securing the services of the current side, we should also expect more signings. 

Names are being closely guarded, though you can be sure Mendes' influence will be key.

One position we have been told the club will prioritise is the centre of defence, and Ruben Dias of Benfica—one of the most sought-after young players in Europe—is one of their targets, sources revealed to B/R. 

How ambitious they can be with other transfers may depend on whether they make the top four⁠—or top five depending on how Man City's appeal against a Champions League ban goes.

Results in July and August will determine whether Wolves can take the giant step into new territory⁠, but one thing for sure is that none of this is a fluke.

Wolves have been plotting this ascent, with no ceiling on just how far they can go.

It is time to take their rise very seriously. They will not rest until they are among Europe's elite.

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