Wolverhampton Wanderers have seen a countless amount of talent grace the pitch at Molineux over the years, however, the glory days of Nuno Santo now seem painfully long ago.
Financial restrictions meant that Wolves were unable to sign worthy replacements for the star sales they made in the market, at a time when profit was integral to balancing the books due to Financial Fair Play rulings.
Now, O’Neil must tackle the struggles on the field with a depleted squad, that he described as being “£80m short” due to the high-profile departures during the transfer window.
A stunning win over Manchester City may have injected some positivity into the club, at long last, but problems still lie within the foundations, namely in the transfer market. Yet, this past summer wasn’t the only time we’ve seen a high-profile departure from Wolverhampton; just ask Diogo Jota.
How much did Wolves sign Diogo Jota for?
In the 2017/18 campaign, the Portuguese forward spent the season on loan at Molineux from Atletico Madrid, before making his move permanent for a fee in the region of €14m (£12m) aged just 21 years old.
It didn’t take long for the Porto-born winger to settle into his new surroundings in England, as he netted 17 Championship goals during a mesmerising debut campaign with his form assisting his side to gain promotion in 2018.
Earning £55k-per-week in the Midlands, Jota settled in well to Nuno’s ambitious squad and played an integral part in the top-flight and the club’s Europa League journey two seasons after their promotion.
What was Jota’s market value at Wolves?
Considering how quickly he adapted to life at Wolves, with chairman Jeff Shi dubbing him an “important player” during his loan period, it was an expected element to his rise that his market value would follow suit.
As per Football Transfers, Jota’s expected transfer value (xTV) was recorded at €18.1m (£15.6m) at the point of his permanent move to the club, with it hitting a magnificent high of €55.1m (£47.7m) at Wolves in the summer of 2020.
The versatile forward, once lauded as “clinical” by journalist Callum Vurley, gave Molineux much to cheer about during his total of three years at the club, as highlighted by the jump in his value from his loan spell.
How many goals did Jota score?
The 33-capped Portugal international continued his form in the Championship by translating it into the top flight, having a hand in 14 Premier League goals in the 2018/19 season, scoring nine and assisting five.
Wolves pulled off the remarkable by finishing seventh in their debut campaign back in the top tier, subsequently placing them in the qualification round of the Europa League in the 2019/20 term.
Jota led the way for his side to secure their place in the finals of the tournament, scoring three goals and registering five assists in his six appearances in the qualifiers.
In the 2019/20 Europa League, the former Atletico ace scored six goals in eight games, which came in the form of back-to-back hat tricks in the competition against Besiktas and Espanyol.
The Old Gold reached the quarter-finals of the tournament thanks to the form of Nuno’s front line, with Jota being one of the main men to thank for his contribution that season, where he also netted seven Premier League goals.
Why did Wolves sell Jota?
Unfortunately, the Portuguese gem’s tally was not consistent, despite the adequate numbers.
As a result of patches without scoring towards the end of the season, Nuno opted to bench the 24-year-old in favour of other attackers in the opening game of the 2020/21 season, where he remained an unused substitute.
Luckily for the player, his poor spells were overcast by his dazzling moments, which saw him get picked up by Liverpool in a deal that had Wolves dreaming as they received a healthy cheque of £41m for his services.
At the point of his departure, the forward was not deemed the player he once was at Molineux, which was quickly shown to be false news as he scored five goals in his opening eight Premier League fixtures for the Reds.
Once named as “quality” by The Athletic’s James Pearce, Jota hit his highest league-scoring tally in the 2021/22 Premier League campaign, netting 15 and assisting six in 35 appearances, leaving Wolves wondering where such form was in his later days at Molineux.
What is Jota’s market value now?
Shortly after his arrival, Klopp was full of praise for the former Wolves sensation, calling him an “exceptional” talent and the “perfect signing” for the squad he was building.
This season has started in the usual fashion for Jota, scoring two goals in seven appearances for the Reds in 2023/24, with his current market value beaming at €50.5m (£44m).
What could Jota have offered to Wolves today?
At the time, Wolves couldn’t fault the deal they sanctioned to offload Jota, considering his inconsistency and the price that Liverpool put on the table.
Looking back from now, the versatile striker is something O’Neil’s side are yearning for, as the squad has been stripped almost bare of star quality that is capable of difference-making moments.
The money received for Jota made the move a no-brainer, however, the Old Gold find themselves today in a financial rut and with a squad unable to score sufficiently, as highlighted by their mere 31 goals in 38 games last term.
Despite ending the campaign as the league’s lowest-scorers, Lopetegui ensured Wolves remained in the top flight, a feat that will be increasingly difficult to follow if circumstances stay the same throughout the year.
Averaging 0.52 non-penalty goals per 90 over the past year, Jota could have eased the difficulties in front of goal if things had worked out differently, with the squad averaging 0.82 goals per match in 2022/23, telling of how desperately they require a goalscorer.
The same way that Arsenal would yearn for Thierry Henry and Chelsea for Didier Drogba, Wolves could be in an entirely different scenario if Jota was still at the club, however, the prospect is now a thing of dreams in Molineux’s nightmare.