Wolves have sold their stars but are not out of the FFP woods yet

Julen Lopetegui, manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers, looks on during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton FC at Molineux on May 20, 2023

Will Julen Lopetegui still be managing Wolves at the start of the season? – Getty Images/Jack Thomas

Wolves are facing a very challenging summer and head coach Julen Lopetegui’s future has been plunged into doubt as the club move to balance the books.

Lopetegui is frustrated after he was informed that the club’s transfer budget would be severely restricted ahead of his first full season in the Premier League.

Wolves have raised almost £90 million in player sales since the end of last season but are unable to spend at all unless further departures are made.

It has raised huge concerns among supporters, with many of them fearing a relegation battle under an ambitious manager whose hands are tied behind his back.

Here, Telegraph Sport looks at the key issues at Molineux.

How bad are Wolves’ finances?

There is no point in concealing the fact that Wolves have got themselves into a mess. After spending huge amounts of money in the past four transfer windows (including £175 million last season), it has now caught up with them. Too many poor signings have been made, such as Goncalo Guedes and Fabio Silva, while other big buys including Matheus Nunes and Matheus Cunha have struggled to consistently impress.

Matheus Cunha of Wolverhampton Wanderers inspects the pitch ahead of the pre-season friendly match between FC Porto and Wolverhampton Wanderers

Matheus Cunha is one of several players who have struggled to impress at Wolves – Getty Images/Jack Thomas

The problems have arisen as Wolves are now in the third financial year of a three-year cycle to satisfy the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules (previously known as financial fair play).

In the first year of that cycle, Wolves announced losses of £45 million in February: estimated losses for the second year are between £60-70 million so the total amount will be over £115 million, which exceeds the permitted £105 million allowed by the Premier League.

That places huge pressure on Wolves to make a profit over the next 12 months, with the accounting year starting in June.

Will more players have to be sold until Wolves can make any new signings?

It is inevitable that further sales are needed, despite the exits of captain Ruben Neves, Nathan Collins, Conor Coady, Raúl Jiménez and Ryan Giles.

Daniel Podence and Jonny Castro Otto appear the most likely contenders to leave next, though both players are unlikely to fetch much above £10 million.

Lopetegui’s No 1 target this summer is Bristol City’s Alex Scott, although the club failed with a second offer of £20 million plus add-ons this month. Negotiations between the two clubs were amicable and professional, and there was even a sense at Wolves that a deal could be done – until now.

At the moment, that move is on ice until Wolves can clear more players and wages off the books. The same applies to the club’s bid to sign West Ham United’s Aaron Cresswell.

Are the Wolves owners still committed and should supporters be worried about the future?

Wolves insist the club are not for sale and Fosun, the Chinese conglomerate that owns them, remains fully committed. This year alone it has invested £80 million to assist cash-flow and basically keep the club running.

Quite simply, Wolves have applied the brakes in order to try to avoid breaching financial regulations. Manchester City and Everton were both charged by the Premier League last season and that has struck fear into boardrooms up and down the country.

There is uncertainty over what punishment either club could receive if found guilty, so Wolves are adopting a “worst-case scenario” stance of serious sanctions including points deductions.

It means that Wolves are perhaps risking their short-term future, but they want to run the club properly and within the rules. Leicester City took similar action last summer and it ultimately ended in relegation, so that is the fear among many Wolves supporters.

Is Julen Lopetegui going to walk?

Julen Lopetegui, Manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers inspects the pitch ahead of the pre-season friendly match between FC Porto and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Estadio da Bela Vista on July 25, 2023 in Faro, Portugal.

Julen Lopetegui does not believe he has the squad to compete in the Premier League – Getty Images/Jack Thomas

He is not happy, and clearly does not believe the current squad is good enough for the Premier League. This is an awkward moment where Wolves have possibly the most decorated manager in their history but are unable to back him properly.

Lopetegui conducted another interview this week in which he laid bare his frustrations. He insisted the club had moved on to their plan B, but cannot manage that now either.

After leading the club to safety last season – one of the most underrated achievements of the campaign – he was expecting to further stamp his imprint on the squad this summer.

Communication has been a big problem at the club over these past few months, from ownership to the financial and football department. Perhaps the financial problems have not been explained adequately enough to key personnel.

While Lopetegui is unquestionably right to be annoyed, it has to be pointed out that he does have previous. At his former clubs there have often been clashes with employers. At Sevilla he had to accept a strict economic policy and wage structure. The best managers are usually difficult and challenging to work with, and this is perhaps another example. Wolves do not expect him to walk away and want to work together to come through this mini-crisis.

It also has to be made clear that the Wolves squad is a very decent one at this level, particularly for the starting XI.

Nunes, Max Kilman (who is expected to reject Napoli and stay), Mario Lemina, Craig Dawson and Joao Gomes would be starters in most Premier League teams.

Maybe the situation is not as bad as Lopetegui fears, though it is the lack of strength in depth that is his main concern.

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