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Julen Lopetegui has parted company with Wolves just days before the start of the new Premier League season.
“The head coach and club acknowledged and accepted their differences of opinion on certain issues and agreed that an amicable end to his contract was the best solution for all parties,” said a statement from the club.
“Talks have been ongoing in recent weeks, held with the utmost respect and cordiality, affording the club time and space to begin work on finding a successor, while also ensuring that Julen and his backroom staff could continue their planned preparation to ensure the playing squad would be in the best possible condition for the start of the Premier League season.”
Here, the PA news agency looks at what went wrong for the Spaniard.
Wasn’t the appointment of Lopetegui considered a coup and wasn’t he doing well?
Yes, when Wolves brought in the former Spain and Real Madrid manager last November, with the team in the relegation zone, it seemed the club had made a smart appointment. Given that Lopetegui had initially turned them down too, they had shown great determination to recruit him. He repaid them by comfortably guiding the club to survival. It was not spectacular but he steadied the ship and form in the spring was a clear uplift on the football of his predecessor Bruno Lage.
So, the foundations were there to build on. Where did it start to go wrong?
At the end of last season there were rumblings that the club would need to match Lopetegui’s ambition in order for him to stay on, despite having signed a three-year contract when he arrived. That meant strengthening a squad that fell short in many areas last term, particularly in the goal-scoring department. Yet, with the club also concerned about balancing the books, it appears they were unable to satisfy him and relations soured.
What have been the problems with the squad?
Wolves signed 10 senior players last season and brought in a further two on loan. Having posted a loss of £41.6million in their last set of financial results, this obviously suggested some sales would be required to prevent further deficit and to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations. Subsequently captain Ruben Neves left for Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal for a club record £47million and Raul Jimenez also moved on, with Matt Doherty the only notable arrival on a free transfer.
What was said about the situation?
Lopetegui voiced his frustration over the summer, saying that transfer activity had been a “big disappointment” and he was unable to enact his ideas. “We were excited by this new plan, but now we don’t have this plan because we don’t have any new players,” he said. Wolves chairman Jeff Shi put out his side of the story in an open letter to supporters last week. “We are also working hard to make sure the club have a long-term robustness and sustainability,” he wrote, adding that it was important to “maintain a sustainable balance of both sporting performance and financial strength”. It seems this only succeeded in bringing matters with Lopetegui to a head.
What happens next?
Given his track record and reputation, Lopetegui is not likely to have trouble finding his next job. Clubs will need to be wary his services come with high demands, however. Wolves are reportedly lining up former Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil as his replacement.
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