Julen Lopetegui was hired as Wolves manager- after a six-year courtship – before last winter’s World Cup break, taking over with Wolves rock bottom of the Premier League. However, under the Spaniard’s leadership they comfortably survived, ending the campaign in 13th place. But any semblance of positivity was quickly eroded with Julen Lopetegui accusing the club’s owners of misleading him regarding their financial situation.
Wolves spent big last summer- and then again in January, in order to fend off relegation. Julen Lopetegui suggested he had been left in the dark over the extent of their issues, with his hopes of evolving the squad dashed. He then publicly voiced his displeasure at the situation, before doubling down during pre-season.
Ex Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui said: “I wish Wolves and everybody at the club the very best of luck for the future, and thank them for the opportunity granted at the time to take charge of this wonderful club.
It has been an honour to enjoy this adventure in the day-to-day company of Matt Hobbs, Matt Wild, head of player care Lisa Hollis and every single employee of the club; whom I wish to thank for their support and help at every moment. “Also, of course, I want to thank the players, who have always given the maximum to achieve our objectives, and especially the fans that made me feel like one of them from the very first moment and have always been amazing to me, my staff and my family.”
Sporting Director Matt Hobbs had looked to quell speculation by suggesting the ex-Spain coach remained committed to the project and as Wolves manger. He said: “I was never in any doubt that he would remain at Wolves, but we have to acknowledge the project is different to what he thought it was.
We had to allow him time to understand it and get his head around how to build a squad to be competitive in the Premier League.” However, Lopetegui subsequently claimed that the club’s plan B – which was to sign players in the £8m to £15m range – had also been shelved.
With less than a week before they travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United, Matt Doherty and third-choice keeper Tom King are the only new arrivals – both signed as free transfers. That’s despite Wolves boosting their coffers to the tune of almost £100m through the sales of players like Ruben Neves, Nathan Collins and Raul Jimenez. The wage bill has also been dramatically slashed after the departures of Adama Traore, Joao Moutinho and Diego Costa all leaving at the end of their respective deals.
Nevertheless, hopes of bringing in replacements have not materialised, with Julen Lopetegui increasingly concerned about their capability of competing in the Premier League. And after crisis talks at the club’s Compton training ground, it has been confirmed that club and manager have reached an amicable agreement to prematurely terminate his contract.
Possible new Wolves manager Gary O’Neil is now the frontrunner to be the imminent replacement after Wolves held lengthy talks with the former Bournemouth boss.
Mirror Football reported that O’Neil and Wolves were locked in discussions for three hours for the Wolves manager position at the back-end of last week as they made contingency plans for the manager’s exit. He impressed during his stint as Cherries boss, having initially been hired as an interim replacement for Scott Parker. He was made permanent manager last November, but was sacked at the start of this summer and replaced by Andoni Iraola.
However, his future at Wolves is hanging in the balance after the Spaniard publicly criticised their lack of summer spending. They have raised around £91million funds through player sales this summer, with Ruben Neves and Nathan Collins two notable departures. Matheus Cunha, Boubacar Traore, Matt Doherty and Tom King have all arrived ahead of the new campaign. Wolves managed to finish 13th and seven points clear of the relegation zone last term.
Despite this, they could turn to former Bournemouth boss Gary O’Neil if they opt to make a managerial change. He was sacked by the Cherries earlier in the summer despite keeping them in the Premier League last season. Gary O’Neil spent the majority of the campaign at the helm after Scott Parker’s departure.
A brilliant run of seven wins from nine games during the latter stages of the season kept them up, which included victories over Liverpool and Tottenham. However, Gary O’Neill is yet to seal a return to management this summer after he left the south coast side.
The new Wolves manager face a tricky start to the new Premier League season with a trip to Manchester United awaiting them on August 14, live on talkSPORT. Brighton and Liverpool are two other tough opponents during their first five fixtures, with reigning champions Manchester City welcoming them at the end of September.