Nuno believes Wolves will keep stars without Champions League football

LONDON (AFP) – Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo is confident the club can retain their best players even if they fail in a surprise bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Wolves travelled to Midlands rivals Aston Villa yesterday still pushing for a top-four finish in only their second season back in the Premier League.

Fifth position, however, could be good enough to gain entry into the Champions League if Manchester City’s two-year European ban for breaching financial fair play rules is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Ruben Neves, Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez have all been linked with moves away from Molineux should Wolves fail to secure a place among Europe’s elite.

But an upbeat Nuno said on Friday, “I don’t think that’s the reason they are here. The reason is they enjoy working together so we don’t have to achieve anything to
retain them.

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ head coach Nuno Espirito Santo. PHOTO: AP

“We don’t think about that (the top four). There’s no race for anything, the race is to compete, improve and make good games.”

The Portuguese boss added, “I’m very proud of the work we have been doing… We have achieved important and remarkable things but still have a long way to go, there is still a lot of room to improve.”

Wolves followed a 2-0 win at West Ham with another behind closed doors victory in Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat of Bournemouth.

Although lockdown gave Wolves, in common with all other Premier League sides, a lengthy break from action, it’s still been a long season for Nuno’s men after they started the campaign in July last year due to Europa League qualification.

“Fifty games in one season for us is many more than other teams, and it’s very demanding on the players,” said Nuno.

“Since we’ve come back, the players have been amazing.

“Our philosophy is like trying to fill a big bottle of water – each day you have to put something in there because you’re going to need it for the future, it’s a simple view.”