The headline of ‘Revealed: Staggering financial results edge Wolves closer to Man United and Liverpool‘ was a tad misleading but these are desperate times as online ad sales plummet and the Birmingham Mail were happy to hoover up any clicks that could be extracted from a chart that placed Wolves seventh on a list of the Premier League’s most valuable clubs. The chart itself illustrates that Liverpool and Manchester United will be losing no sleep over the ‘edging’ Wolves, but it does show that outside of those elite clubs, the tallest dwarf is dressed in old gold.
Kieran Maguire’s formula could be questioned by anyone who wonders how Tottenham could possibly be worth more than Manchester United, but his positioning of Wolves stands up to perfunctory scrutiny. This is a club with incredibly rich owners which has done some extraordinary business to leave them with a squad worth far, far more than was spent to put it together. Football and financial success have both followed a ridiculously steep curve at a club which finished 15th in the Championship just three years ago.
— PriceOfFootball (@KieranMaguire) April 29, 2020
The ‘edging’ towards Manchester United and Liverpool may have been accentuated for maximum clicks, but what’s undoubtedly true is that Wolves are in a better position than most Premier League clubs to survive the coronavirus crisis with their squad intact. While Bournemouth may be forced to listen for offers for the bizarrely popular Josh King and Crystal Palace’s asking price for Wilfried Zaha might be dropping by £5m a week, Wolves will not be vulnerable to any vultures. If elite clubs want Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez or Ruben Neves, they will have to pay silly money. There has never been a better time or a better club to have a squad full of coveted players.
Over a year ago, Pep Guardiola laughed off the notion that they would pay £100m for Neves; his asking price will barely be any lower now. There was talk of Wolves wanting ‘more than £60m’ for Traore but reports last month suggested that £75m was the minimum figure being mentioned within Molineux. The club might actually welcome bids for Mexican striker Jimenez, but they will expect the bidding to start at £50m for a 29-year-old. These are heady times for a club that has never raised more than £15m from a sale.
Jurgen Klopp famously called Traore “unplayable” but he might also find him “unbuyable” at a time when Liverpool are as wary as any club of committing money to new signings without knowing when fans might be allowed in stadiums and broadcast contracts might be worth their full value again. In any other summer, even Wolves – like Leicester with Harry Maguire – might be vulnerable to a bid that makes too much business sense to ignore, but it seems unlikely that Liverpool will be flouting their largesse this summer, with even a deal for Timo Werner put on the back-burner.
The real danger of flying too close to the sun in the Premier League has always been from bigger birds with the means to buy your wings, but Wolves – and other clubs whose finances veer further towards healthy than precarious – might find themselves impervious to such interest this summer. No footballer is priceless but some footballers will have price tags that nobody can pay, or rather they won’t want to be seen to pay.
“Traore now, at the moment I would say he is, pretty much, unplayable. I’ve said it now a couple of times and it is still true,” said Graeme Souness this weekend, prompting the usual chorus of doubt about whether he would get in Liverpool’s first team. No matter, for Liverpool – and potentially no other club – can force Wolves into a sale this summer. They are far better suited to the rule of predator than prey.
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