It is almost 10 years since Sheikh Mansour bought Manchester City and transformed the club from noisy neighbours into one of England’s finest.
In their own way, the Chinese Fosun Group are attempting something similar at Wolves.
As they celebrated promotion from the Championship in April, senior executives spoke of their vision to make Wolves “one of the best clubs in the world”.
It was fitting therefore on Saturday that City should visit Molineux so close to their anniversary, offering an opportunity to see how Wolves are doing – and more importantly – just how far they have to go.
Wolves were league champions three times in the 1950s and are ranked inside England’s top 10 most successful clubs, but have spent only four seasons out of the last 34 in the top flight.
With the club’s fans singing an anthem that ends “we’re Wolverhampton, we’re on our way back”, is it realistic to think Wolves can match their owners’ ambitions and get themselves back among the trophy contenders and title challengers?
Having access to a touch of class
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side received a standing ovation from the home supporters after their 1-1 draw with Premier League champions Manchester City.
They got within 21 minutes of a first top -light home win since December 2011, when Steven Fletcher’s second-half double defeated Sunderland.
There was more than a hint of good fortune about Willy Boly’s opener, which clearly went in off his hand.
However, there was nothing lucky about the first-half save goalkeeper Rui Patricio made to turn Raheem Sterling’s long-range shot onto the post, nor the reaction feet-first stop that kept out Sergio Aguero’s close-range header after half-time.
Mind you, it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. Patricio has 73 Portugal caps and was in goal when they beat hosts France in extra-time to win Euro 2016.
Patricio signed for Wolves from Sporting Lisbon this summer, thanks to the influence of super agent Jorge Mendes, whose Gestifute agency is part owned by the Fosun group.
Another Euro 2016 winner and summer arrival, Joao Moutinho, started the game. Key men Helder Costa and Ruben Neves are also Mendes clients from Portugal, as is their manager.
Wolves have repeatedly denied Mendes has too much influence at the club and the English Football League cleared them after allegations were made by the Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani.
Evidently though, the higher Wolves climb, the more Mendes’ elite stable of players, which includes Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria, will be needed to reach the next level.
Progress, but not instant success
It has been largely forgotten over the last decade but City won only four of their first 15 Premier League games of the Abu Dhabi era. It was three years before they won their first trophy; the FA Cup.
Despite a net spend of £55m in the summer, the eighth highest in the Premier League, Wolves are still to win a game this season.
They performed superbly against Pep Guardiola’s side, but nevertheless, they have only two points from their opening three games and will end the weekend nearer the bottom of the table than the top.
Few – including Nuno – doubt Wolves’ fortunes will improve significantly over the coming weeks and months.
However, he refuses to look too far ahead, seeing little point in working out what his side needs to match City without first working out the best way of navigating the journey.
He said: “We can’t aim to become something that is further in the future without taking care of our present.
“We cannot be in a rush to compare ourselves with a club the dimensions of Manchester City.
“Of course we have ambitions but we have to be humble and know where we are.”
All in it together
Wolves owners have plans to increase the capacity of Molineux to 50,000. In the short term, it will be around the 31,322 present to see the City game.
Working for TV, former boss Mick McCarthy remarked that “the place is jumping” when Wolves are doing well.
That was certainly the case on this occasion and it is evident Nuno doesn’t view the construction of his football team being purely about his players and their manager.
He said: “Everyone in the club and the city of Wolverhampton must be engaged if we are to create something together.
“We need an identity everyone involved in the club can hold on to.”
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/45309671