Wolverhampton Wanderers are expected to appoint Nuno Espirito Santo’s successor in the next two weeks.
Wolves and Nuno parted ways at the end of last season after four years in partnership, three of which brought the club unprecedented modern day success.
The man leading the race to replace Nuno, as things stand, is Bruno Lage.
It’s understood chairman Jeff Shi and technical director Scott Sellars held talks with Lage on May 24 and quizzed him on his credentials, as well as his plans to move Wolves forward if given the job.
According to sources Wolves’ hierarchy ‘wanted to know everything’ about Lage’s ideas during a lengthy meeting.
The 45-year-old has since returned to Portugal and is now waiting to hear back from Wolves – though he is well aware that the club plans to explore other options before making a final decision.
Lage’s sales pitch
Part of the attraction of Lage, whose only senior managerial experience came during a successful 18-month spell with Benfica, is his attacking style of play in comparison to Nuno.
“He has a very attacking mindset,” says A Bola journalist Rui Miguel Melo, who worked at close quarters with Lage during his spell with Benfica. “Almost all Portuguese managers are a little bit defensive, they don’t like to concede many goals and they hate to lose control of the match. In the case of Bruno Lage, it’s always an attacking mindset.”
The numbers 4-4-2 were once viewed as out-dated in this country but Lage could attempt to bring them back into fashion if he’s named Wolves chief.
He immediately switched Benfica’s system after replacing Rui Vitoria in early 2019, and 19 games later – 18 of which ended in victory – they had overturned a seven-point deficit to win the Primeira Liga.
“He enjoys wide players, but the wide players in this tactical approach are the full-backs. He played very well with (Alex) Grimaldo on the left side and (Andre) Almeida on the right.
“He likes to have his wingers cut inside. His teams have a lot of interior game and then the main advantage comes from the width.
“He puts the game all on one side of the pitch and then, in a few touches, he changes the side of the match and goes to the other side. That’s one of the ideas in this tactical approach.”
Key meeting awaits
There are some concerns that Lage won’t be able to secure a work permit to coach in England after changes to the rules following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
The FA published new guidelines after Brexit which focused on promoting homegrown coaches and players, meaning managers from overseas are expected to have two consecutive years of ‘top level’ experience or have worked three of the last five seasons to secure a job.
For all Lage’s coaching credentials, he was only first team manager of Benfica for 18 months before leaving in 2020.
However, he does have extensive experience as a first team coach – including stints with Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea City during his spell alongside Carlos Carvalhal – which Wolves believe will work in his favour.
Lage is set to learn whether he will be granted a work permit in midweek. Wolves are confident that Lage will be given clearance should they choose him to replace Nuno.
Lage’s fellow Portuguese Paulo Fonseca has also been linked with the vacancy. Fonseca has just been replaced at Roma by Jose Mourinho and has been connected to Premier League vacancies in the past.
Ex-Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is also of interest to Wolves, according to talkSPORT, having been out of work since his Stamford Bridge sacking in January.
Lampard’s handling of Chelsea’s youngsters during his short spell as manager will no doubt appeal to Wolves, with the club keen to develop their own talents.
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A big summer ahead
Whoever gets the top job at Molineux faces a huge summer transfer window, which could include quite a significant rebuild.
A number of Wolves’ star players are being linked with moves away, including Rui Patricio, Ruben Neves and Adama Traore.
Shi says funds will be made available to the new boss, but he also stressed that ownership group Fosun won’t keep throwing money at transfers.
He said: “If the question is about whether the owner will put more money into the club, I think we have some barriers to conquer. Financial Fair Play is there, especially after we’ve lost so much revenue from the ticketing office and the stadium.
“In the next season I think it will be tough for us to manipulate under the FFP rules. We have to find a way to upgrade the squad but in the meantime be careful about financial things.”