When Nuno Espirito Santo was appointed as Wolverhampton Wanderers’ new manager last summer, there would have been an expectation that he was going to do well having impressed with FC Porto previously, but there would also have been a slight worry that it could take him time to adapt to the rigours of English football and the notoriously difficult to navigate Championship.
The 44-year-old was certainly fortunate in many ways as super-agent Jorge Mendes helped broker deals to bring the likes of Ruben Neves, Alfred Ndiaye, Leo Bonatini, Diogo Jota and Willy Boly among others to Molineux, and they quickly showed their quality.
Rather than bringing all of the new signings – mainly international-based – straight into the XI and discarding his British players, he cleverly decided to go with a blend of the two with existing players such as Matt Doherty and Conor Coady, and it proved to be a recipe for success as they romped to the Championship title.
When you are replacing at least half of your starting XI going into a new season there is never any guarantee that they would all gel together and hit the ground running, but that is exactly what happened for the west Midlands outfit as Doherty, Coady, John Ruddy and Barry Douglas all shone alongside the likes of Neves and Jota.
It seems like there may well changes aplenty at Molineux again this summer with Raul Jimenez and Rui Patracio already signing, and The Express & Star reporting that they won’t be taking up the options to sign Bonatini and Ndiaye on permanent deals.
Santo and Wolves, whose fans have been quick to react to a rumour they want to re-sign a Ligue 1 starlet, have been linked with plenty of other players though – once again primarily from abroad – and it seems as though Mendes may well have another hand in bringing some big-name players to the club, as he did last summer.
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They have been linked with a number of Porto players with many hoping they will be able to cancel their contracts with some of them being attacked by a group of supporters at the training ground, as well as other notable names like Joao Cancelo and Jack Wilshere.
While wholesale changes worked ahead of their Championship season, the former Porto boss would be taking his biggest risk since taking charge of the club if they try and replicate it this summer.
Considering their opening six fixtures back in the Premier League feature Everton, Leicester City, Manchester City, West Ham United and Manchester United, they need to be on it from the very first whistle.
You can’t underestimate how important momentum can be when you are promoted – you only need to look at how Brighton and Hove Albion, Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United all survived last season after going up – and they did that having kept the nucleus of their promotion squads together.
With a couple of last term’s players already not staying permanently, Wolves have to be careful that they don’t end up starting the new campaign with a completely new XI that don’t know each other’s games, because they will get punished in the top flight if they don’t have that understanding with one another.
While it is absolutely fine for them to add one, two or three quality players to their ranks, their strengthening needs to be on a gradual basis rather than all at once, and Santo and the club should avoid making what would be the manager’s biggest risk since he took charge at Molineux.