Nuno Espirito Santo insists Wolves’ youngsters will remain ‘back-ups’ as he plots building his squad.
Eleven of the 26-man squad that travelled to China are from the club’s Academy, eight of which featured in the Premier League Asia Trophy final penalty shootout win against Manchester City. Morgan Gibbs-White, 19, started both games, while Dion Sanderson, Max Kilman, Hong Wan, Terry Taylor, Taylor Perry, Luke Cundle and Niall Ennis all got playing time in Asia coming off the bench.
Wolves are still to sign a new player this summer after the loan-to-permanent arrivals of Leander Dendoncker and Raul Jimenez and Nuno wants a centre back, central midfielder and a striker before the transfer window shuts on Thursday, August 8 at 5pm. Talks are being held with AC Milan over £22m-rated striker Patrick Cutrone, 21, who is weighing up his options.
“We’re still building the squad, but the young boys will always be back-ups,” said Nuno. “Now we go home, we prepare ourselves for Thursday, then we have to make decisions. “The way they performed helped us, it was important that they had minutes, as well as the first-team, so it’s a good process. The boys are here, they still have to develop and improve a lot and we go side by side with them, trying to be better players for the future.”
Nuno reflected on a successful week in China, insisting his squad are in better shape mow than they were a week ago as they step up preparations for their first competitive game, against Northern Irish outfit Crusaders in the Europa League, second qualifying round at Molineux. The players have also put in a lot of work to promote the club in China, attending a series of events.
“The week went OK. We go back home better than when we arrived, which was one of the main ideas inside of the trip to the Asia Trophy,” said the head coach. “Of course, we’ve attended a lot of events, the players were patient. They had strong sessions in the morning then had to go to events.
“All the things we’ve accomplished have been good in preparation for the future because that’s what counts most. We are progressing and improving towards what we want, day by day reaching our high standards.
“The winning mentality is building on a daily basis. The boys go to each and every training session trying to improve. This is how you build a winning mentality.”
Goalkeeper Rui Patricio, who saved three penalties in the shootout against City, has had several stitches in a gash under his right eye. “Rui is OK. He had a big cut, he’ll have stiches and recover,” said Nuno. “He’ll have a scar but it’s part of his job.”
Nuno was satisfied with a job well done against City, conscious of the bigger picture – being ready for competitive matches. “Once we settled down, that moment gave us hope that we can stay in the game, then in the second half we were better,” he added. “We had a couple of chances; the game was more balanced and I’m happy to win, but the main objective was to play well and travel back home healthy, so we are happy.”