Sky Sports' Johnny Phillips: Now’s the time for Uncle Jorge to work his magic at Wolves

Fosun have a habit of providing answers just as the questions start to get louder. And there is one particular question on the lips of Wolves supporters right now: who is going to replace Raul Jimenez?

Jorge Mendes of GestiFute (AMA)
Jorge Mendes of GestiFute (AMA)

Performances have been inconsistent since the striker’s injury at Arsenal last month and he has been missed considerably, even against Chelsea when the team came good. Wolves have never needed a replacement more than they need one now, yet they are operating in the market at its absolute worst.

A January transfer window in a post-Brexit reality is not an environment any self-respecting club wants to be relying upon for solutions.

With teenager Fabio Silva not quite ready and Owen Otasowie clearly not even so much as a makeweight in attack, the need to strengthen the side has never been so obvious. For the first time in Nuno Espirito Santo’s tenure, the head coach has not got the players he wants at his disposal. What makes the current situation difficult is that any new signing must be in a position to go straight into the first team.

One of the long-term recruitment strategies involves strengthening the base of British players at the club. This is for two reasons. The FA Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) points system for signing players outside the single market will apply to EU players once the Brexit transition takes place.

So Wolves need to find more value in the home market now that the cheaper EU nationalities are subject to the same non-EU regulations. Secondly, Premier League teams are not allowed any more than 17 non-homegrown players in their squad. UEFA defines homegrown players as those who, regardless of their nationality, have been trained by their club or another club in the same national association for at least three years between the age of 15 and 21. Back in February, Spurs only had four homegrown players, which is one of the reasons Joe Hart’s summer move to north London was not as surprising as it first appeared.

The problem with the January market is that there is neither value nor an abundance of homegrown players available for a move. Wolves are as likely to secure a top British striker in Jimenez’s class as Nuno is to be arranging a summer holiday with Lee Mason.

Now, more than ever before, the club’s relationship with Mendes will come to the fore. It is hard to overstate the importance of Mendes when deals need to be struck.

As was proved in the summer, when Matt Doherty moved to Spurs and was replaced with Barcelona’s Nelson Semedo, Wolves can now operate in the highest echelons of the market. But just as significant as the players Mendes has within his stable is his role as a broker.

Wolves have earmarked several potential overseas replacements for Jimenez. Acquiring one within their transfer model who can satisfy the new points criteria will be difficult.

Nuno needs a stop-gap replacement for his injured talisman rather than a player such as Silva, who was clearly brought in with future development in mind.

The question of risk reward comes in. How much money are Fosun prepared to outlay at a time when there is no value in the market? There is a pressing need to cover for between now and the end of the season, yet there is also a question surrounding when Jimenez will be able to return. Despite his remarkable progress, it is not a foregone conclusion that he will be ready for the start of next season.

Transfer talk can be tedious, particularly as so many targets come and go with the wind. But one fascinating prospective signing who would illustrate the club’s extensive reach is Serbian striker Luka Jovic.

He has been marginalised since a much-hyped move from Eintracht Frankfurt to Real Madrid 18 months ago. That he is on the club’s radar has much to do with the current alignment with Gestifute.

Although Jovic is with the LIAN Sports agency, Mendes is in prime position to broker any further move, having previously earmarked the player as a potential option for his close associate Jose Mourinho when he was Manchester United manager.

Jovic and Jimenez are former team-mates at Benfica, where Gestifute have been an influential presence for many years and played an integral part in securing the Mexican striker’s transfer to Wolves.

The 22-year old was an unused substitute as Real Madrid ran out 3-1 winners at Eibar last Sunday, and he has failed to win the trust of Zinedine Zidane since his 60million euro move to Spain.

Whether or not he leaves the Bernabeu any time soon is privy only to those close to the situation, but it is Gestifute’s role that would be pivotal to any deal. That is why Fosun keeps the agency close. Much changes quickly at this time of year. It could be Jovic or another striker altogether, but the point is that this elite agency can facilitate big moves quickly when required.

Relationships are important. There is a strong working understanding with Liverpool at present, following the transfers of Diogo Jota and Ki-Jana Hoever which were completed without any protracted fuss.

That relationship would be beneficial if Divock Origi became a serious option, but at present Liverpool are in no hurry to sell and Nuno has his reservations about the player.

Circumstances change, though. Where the hunt for Jimenez’s replacement ends could be at the feet of any number of targets at home or abroad that the club has worked diligently on scouting.

Many supporters, perhaps understandably, have a ravenous appetite for transfer speculation, but with so many uncertainties in a fluid market there is little to be gained from second guessing any activity.

What is not up for debate, though, is that the team has reached a point where it cannot continue effectively by maintaining the status quo.

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