Wolverhampton Wanderers may have clinched their first Premier League campaign for six years, but the club’s ambitious Chinese owners have no intention of resting on their laurels.
Since buying Wolves for £45 million ($64 million) in 2016, the Fosun International group has bankrolled the team’s bid to return to the top-flight.
That investment paid rich dividends last weekend when the Championship leaders saw their promotion confirmed by Fulham’s draw with Brentford.
A place in the Premier League is worth a minimum of £170 million.
And now they have made it, the Chinese investors are determined to consolidate Wolves’ lucrative place among the elite for the long term.
“This is just the first step. We have a long-term plan and we have to fulfil that step by step,” Wolves chairman Jeff Shi told the BBC.
While Wolves are steeped in the history of their famous title-winning sides of the 1950s, the team from the Black Country in England’s West Midlands have been unable to hold their own during their intermittent spells in the big time.
Wolves, who were playing in the third tier just four years ago, have finished in the top 10 in the English top-flight once since 1973, with their last two stays ending in relegation after one and three seasons respectively.
It might be asking too much to recapture the halcyon days of the legendary Billy Wright, who captained Wolves to their three English titles and inspired memorable wins over the great Hungarian side Honved featuring the legendary Ferenc Puskas – results that spurred the creation of the European Cup.
But Wolves managing director Laurie Dalrymple is convinced his club has the potential to shake off their ‘sleeping giant’ tag by becoming a Premier League mainstay and eventually qualifying for Europe.
“We are going into the Premier League to compete and compete hard,” Dalrymple said.
“We don’t just want to be one of the 20 teams that is there to make up the numbers. There shouldn’t be any limits to what we can achieve as a club.”
Achieving that ambition will be easier for Wolves due to their connection with super-agent Jorge Mendes, who counts Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo among his clients.
Mendes’s Gestifute agency is part-owned by a Fosun subsidiary and he has flooded Wolves with talent from his roster that would likely have been out of the reach of their Championship rivals.
Ruben Neves, a £15.8 million signing from Porto, and Diogo Jota, the Atletico Madrid loanee who joins permanently in the close season, have been key players in Wolves’ rise under manager Nuno Espirito Santo, who is also represented by Mendes.
The Mendes link has angered other Championship clubs, with Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani especially vocal, while Premier League clubs reportedly raised the issue at their shareholders’ meeting.
But, as many other second tier clubs have discovered, investing in foreign players doesn’t always bring success in such a cut-throat league.
Wolves’ promotion is as much a tribute to the astute man-management of former Porto coach Nuno as is it an inevitable result of their spending power.
“It is always about us. It is not about us adapting to another team and I think that is reassuring as players,” Wolves goalkeeper John Ruddy said.
“It’s all right spending the money but if you’re not bringing in the right personalities and mentalities then it doesn’t matter.
“If they are not working in unison then you are never going to succeed. We have got a great group.”