If Wolverhampton Wanderers’ first 11 league games are anything to go by, the Midlands might have new Premier League representation next season.
The club currently sit second in the Championship table, just one point behind leaders Cardiff City.
After a number of lean years, Wolves look like they’ve turned a corner. Their transformation into title contenders this season has been startling.
But how have they managed it? There are three major reasons for Wolves’ rise: Fosun International, Jorge Mendes, and Nuno Espirito Santo.
Fosun bought Wolves back in July 2016. The Chinese investment conglomerate – worth a reported £52bn last year – set about making the club a force in English football once again.
However, things didn’t get off to a great start. They made disastrous appointments in Walter Zenga, and then Paul Lambert, finishing in fifteenth place.
That’s when Jorge Mendes’ expertise was called upon. The Portuguese super agent was given the task of overseeing the club’s recruitment policy for the 2016-17 campaign.
The hiring of a manager and the movement of players in and out of Molineux was left to the 51-year-old.
His decision to bring in Espirito Santo – his first ever client – has proven inspired so far. The former Porto and Valencia coach has Wolves playing some sparkling football.
Their free-flowing style is underpinned by a short-passing game which is incredibly easy on the eye.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the players with the ability to execute Espirito Santo’s philosophy.
The combination of Fosun’s financial strength and Mendes’ contacts within the game has seen an influx of top-quality players.
According to Whoscored, four of the summer recruits are among their highest-rated players. Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota, Willy Boly, and Leo Bonatini have all reached or surpassed expectations.
Jota, in particular, has been a revelation. The Portuguese starlet – on loan from Atletico Madrid – has six goals and an assist in 11 league appearances.
Brazilian striker Bonatini – also on loan from Al-Hilal – has scored four goals, and bagged four assists in 10 games.
That remarkable recruitment drive has added to an existing core of players who have provided reliability and relative quality for a few seasons now.
From what we’ve seen so far this season, that’s difficult to argue with.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing