It’s dangerous talk, particularly when it’s your own club: but Wolves are sitting pretty at the top of the Championship right now, and barring a complete collapse, are almost already assured of promotion.
Pragmatically, how has Nuno Espírito Santo guided his side to a point where they look comfortable at the summit of the second tier?
No one is saying Wolves are a promoted team – yet. There are still 57 points in the offing in their remaining 19 games. Dramatic collapses are not uncommon in football. But to date, they have got a lot of things right.
Guo Guangchang and Liang Xinjun are not individuals you would immediately associate with Wolves. But Guangchang and Xinjun cofounded Fosun International in 1992 with a triumvirate of other graduates. As a company, Chinese company Fosun has ranged in a variety of industries; tourism, pharmaceuticals, mining.
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A Championship club who were struggling to attain Premier League status, was not something anyone would have envisaged as an investment opportunity. However, as executive Chairman Jeff Shi has said, Fosun are interested in smart investment. This is a practical business opportunity.
The aim is growth and profitability and so far the blueprint appears to be a smart one. Availing of the advice of a former DJ and video shop owner has added credibility and purpose to the clubs vision.
The caveat is that the said former DJ is, of course, Jorge Mendes, the super-agent who keeps company with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and José Mourinho. Mendes acts as an advisor to the club on player transfers.
In 1996, he represented a goalkeeper who played for Portuguese side Vitória Guimarães and negotiated a move for that player to Deportiva La Coruña. The player, of course, was Nuno, so the link isn’t tenuous.
Both men have had played their part. Mendes, in an advisory capacity, has served his purpose well with an accumulation of fine Portuguese footballing talent. Rúben Neves from Porto, a club record signing, Valencia’s prodigious talent Pedro Goncalves and Diogo Jota, a loan signing from Porto.
Republic of Ireland defender Matt Doherty is the only player to have played in the 2016/17 opening game, who started in this seasons opening win over Middlesbrough. Essentially, there was enough upheaval to suggest there would be too much unrest to garner a settled side.
However, Nuno has done just that with the likes of William Hill putting Wolves as odds-on favourites to win promotion outright.
It’s clear Nuno has done plenty right.
When Everton came knocking in November, following the sacking of Ronald Koeman, it was clear he was held in high esteem. The high calibre squad assembled has remained relatively injury free, but it is how Nuno has seamlessly gelled the players into so cohesive a unit that is impressive.
Renowned for his attention to detail and organisational ability, Nuno leaves little to chance. His players understand their roles, playing with pace from a three-man defence, Nuno has assembled a functional side with no little lack of footballing appeal.
Wolves aren’t there yet. But Nuno, with competent assistance, has made the players and fans alike believe again.