Having evicted Bruno Lage from the managerial role and replaced him with the esteemed Lopetegui in November, Wanderers owner Jeff Shi is moving with conviction to secure the club’s future in the Premier League, having already completed the signing of Matheus Cunha on loan with the obligation to buy for £44m from Atletico Madrid.
And now, according to French reporter Saber Desfarges, the Midlands outfit could be set to swoop for OGC Nice midfielder Mario Lemina.
He said: “Wolverhampton would like to secure the services of Mario Lemina (OGC Nice) this winter.
“First offer, of nearly €5m (£4.5m), refused by the Gym.”
Having previously played for Southampton in the English top-flight, the 29-year-old Lemina boasts a wealth of experience already, and could provide security and stability within the Wolves midfield, making a marked improvement on performances that have left the club 18th in the division after 17 matches.
Having made 52 appearances for Saints since arriving at the outfit in a club-record deal of £18m in 2017, the ace enjoyed two seasons at St. Mary’s before falling out of favour, earning a couple of loan moves including a successful spell with Fulham in the 2020/21 campaign.
During that term, the Gabonese gem recorded an average rating of 6.85 despite the Cottagers falling foul to the drop-zone to the Championship, excelling in his industrious role and completing 84% of his passes, averaging 2.2 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per match, while also succeeding with 70% of his dribbles and 54% of his total duels.
And as per FBref, the 25-cap star ranks within the top 4% of midfielders across Europe’s major leagues for tackles, the top 6% for clearances and the top 7% for blocks, while also perching within the top 13% for pass completion – indicating a vigorous mentality that will serve the relegation-threatened Wolves very well.
He could adopt the responsibilities of Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves, who has etched his name into Molineux folklore since arriving while the club still plyed their trade in the second-tier, arriving from FC Porto in a £15m deal.
Neves may be more of a maestro with the brilliance of his passing and the innovation of his transitional play, also a brilliant striker of the ball, but with Lopetegui looking to bring in signings to boost the offensive ranks, Lemina could prove to be a shrewd acquisition, sweeping the opposing advances away like a broom, dispatching the attackers like litter.
Reports in recent months state that Neves could be set for a January exit, and while he would demand a high fee, a move for Lemina could remedy the hole left in the Portuguese ace’s wake and leave coins in the purse for further moves.
The assurance of the “powerhouse” in the centre – as once lauded by BBC Sport’s Garth Crooks – would act as a centrepiece for positivity to stretch its clutches into enemy territory, consequently giving Wolves the requisite tools to return to prominence in the Premier League once again.