Danny Murphy believes the gulf between his former club Fulham and Wolves has been shown in their recruitment.
Last summer Fulham appeared to give themselves a great chance of prospering in the Premier League by spashing out £100m on a host of signings, while Wolves attracted some criticism at the time for not pushing the boat as much, spending a more cautious £70m.
Since then Wolves have snapped up Jonny Otto for £18m and have agreed a club record £32m deal to sign 17-goal top scorer Raul Jimenez on a permanent deal from Benfica.
But just a year after both clubs were promoted, Fulham have been relegated back to the Championship while Wolves have finished seventh to become the highest finishing promoted club since Ipswich claimed fifth in 2000-01.
“Wolves and Fulham have both come from the Championship. Fulham finished 11 points behind Wolves last season and they’re now 31 points behind Wolves,” said Murphy, 42 on BBC1’s Match Of The Day.
“Both clubs have spent a similar amount of money and it proves one thing, that your recruitment is massively important.
“The difference between the levels of the teams was chalk and cheese, and that’s because of the signings.
“It just shows you the importance of recruitment by the teams coming up from the Championship.”
Former midfielder Murphy, who also played for Liverpool, Tottenham, Charlton, Blackburn and England, believes Wolves have succeeded where Fulham haven’t in the dugout too.
Fulham are on their third manager of the season in caretaker boss Scott Parker after Claudio Ranieri was sacked to follow Slavisa Jokanovic, who led them to promotion last season. By contrast, Wolves have had remarkable back-to-back seasons with Nuno Espirito Santo since he was appointed in May 2017.
“Coaching is important as well and the Wolves head coach deserves a lot of credit because Wolves are very well organised, they play a good system, they’re very hard to beat, and they have done well against the top six,” said Murphy. “They should have beaten Fulham by many goals.”
One of those key signings Wolves have made is Diogo Jota, who has scored 10 goals this season following his £14m permanent move from Atletico Madrid after topscoring on loan last season with 18.
“He’s had a terrific season and the fans love him,” said Murphy. “He’s a great foil for Raul Jimenez. They play so well together and on Saturday the only thing missing from them was they didn’t score.”
Murphy admitted Fulham’s shortcomings were laid bare by Wolves after three straight wins.
“Scott has done a brilliant job in the three previous games but against Wolves we saw signs why they’re going down,” he said. “Look – it’s about tracking runners, winning a 50-50 challenge, passing the ball 10 yards.
“If you watch Maxime Le Marchand he makes mistake after mistake after mistake, which epitomised Fulham’s season in many ways. I thought they were very poor.
“Callum Chambers needed to get back in (to shape), where was his midfield man? Tom Cairney needed to get back. These are basics of football. Talk about small details, but small details are running after people, making tackles, sprinting and passing the ball 10 yards to a team-mate and they got battered by Wolves.”