Wolves manager Bruno Lage is adamant Ruben Neves was right to stay at Molineux this summer – but admits it proved difficult in convincing his star midfielder not to jump ship.
The Black Country side have seen plenty of their star names poached away in recent seasons. Indeed, having sold Diogo Jota to Liverpool and Matt Doherty to Tottenham, there were fears more big names could depart this summer.
As such, speculation raged over the futures of both Neves and winger Adama Traore.
Neves has been the subject of transfer speculation for much of the summer, with Manchester United one of the clubs reportedly interested in signing him.
However, the strongest interest came from Arsenal, who held talks with the player over a move to Emirates. Gunners boss Mikel Arteta was keen to draft in the midfielder with Granit Xhaka seemingly on his way to Roma.
As it transpired, Jose Mourinho’s side were unable to strike a deal for the Swiss star. And he ultimately ended up signing a new deal at Arsenal in a move that effectively curtailed their efforts to bring in Neves.
Nonetheless. Lage admits he still had work to do to convince Neves to stay.
However, addressing the rumours about his midfielder, he insists he was correct in choosing to stay.
“This is life after the big teams come for this player,” Lage said about Arsenal interest in Neves.
“I live with the rumour he can leave but he stayed with us. In this way he took the best decision.
“Don’t go, stay and continue to improve with us and help us to be better. Let’s see what happens.
“What Nuno did was very good and I want to continue with that. The project is to take Wolves to the next step. From the club’s side we need to conquer our players to stay with us
“Not just with a contract and salary but more ambition to be better.”
Lage has confidence in Hwang impact
Speaking prior to Saturday’s match with Brentford, Lage also expects big things from new striker signing Hwang Hee-chan.
He made a promising start having netted on his debut at Watford. However, the Wolves boss is keen to play down expectation levels over the South Korean.
“Hwang did very well in Austria [with Red Bull Salzburg] and he didn’t have many chances in Germany and, now, he has started very well with us,” he said.
“He has only played 30 minutes so, in the same way, I don’t want to put pressure on anyone. I want to train the way we want to play, with a high tempo, and he is one more player to help us.
“I’m very happy to have four players to play there [in attack]. That’s the point, to have top players.”