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Nuno linked with Wolves return
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Nuno Espirito Santo could be the latest manager to "go back"

Original article published 17 October 2022

One of the old adages in football is that you should "never go back" and instead look to move on with your career - it appears Nuno Espirito Santo might be discounting that sage advice.

Rumours are circulating that the Portuguese could be heading back to Molineux only 18 months after departing following a hugely successful stint in the West Midlands. Bruno Lage, his successor, was sacked a couple of weeks ago and the club have struggled to recruit a replacement. 

Ex-Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui was the favourite but he opted against making the move to England, while Pedro Martins has also been touted for the job. However, it appears Wolves, priced at 9/4 to be relegated and 1/3 to stay up, are going to go back to a tried and tested method in the form of Nuno. 

Wolves hoping to rekindle old magic 

Nuno originally took over at Wolves in 2017 when they were a mid-table Championship club but the emergence of a Portuguese-dominated transfer strategy, helped by "super-agent" Jorge Mendes saw them steamroll their way to the Championship title. 

Big names such as Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, and Rui Patricio joined along the way, and in their first season back in the top flight, they ended seventh. Nuno then took them into Europe the following year with a quarter-final of the Europa League being the high water mark for Wolves in the 21st century. 

However, the following season saw Nuno lose grip slightly - his 3-5-2/3-4-3 formations, which had worked so well over the past three years, was beginning to look tired and stale. Goals were being scored with less regularity, and games were becoming turgid. In the end 13th with only 36 Premier League goals scored represented a downturn and Nuno was ousted at the end of the 2020/21 season. 

Yet 18 months on, it looks as though the Wolves board might be ready to place their trust in him once more. 

Nuno does have the advantage of having worked with most of the players in the squad. And, Lage did not represent a major change in terms of playing style so Nuno wouldn't have to "re-coach" them. He currently coaches Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia so prising him away from the Middle East will be part of the negotiations but Nuno may relish the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong, particularly after his doomed spell at Tottenham. 

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Going back has worked before 

Although returning to a previous club is ill-advised, it is not always a ticket to failure. Jose Mourinho went back to Chelsea in 2013, six years after his departure from Stamford Bridge. He ended up winning the Premier League within two years. 

Of course, having an almost limitless pot of money to work with does help, but Mourinho was able to shake off any initial doubts and be a success. Carlo Ancelotti is another who in his second spell at a club, with Real Madrid being the beneficiary of the Italian's experience. 

Many eyebrows were raised when the Italian was poached from Everton to go back to the Bernabeu but last year, Los Blancos won La Liga with ease. It is a strategy that can work and one thing Nuno can bank upon is the support from fans with the Molineux faithful holding him in high regard for his achievements - getting the supporters onside will be key heading into a crucial period of matches before the season breaks for the World Cup. 

What is in Nuno's in-tray? 

If Nuno does succeed Lage then the first task at hand will be to try and squeeze more goals out of his squad. They are the lowest scorers in the division with a pitiful three in nine Premier League matches and if that doesn't improve then they will be saying goodbye to their status as a top-flight team. 

Raul Jimenez has still yet to get back to the form that saw him linked with the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham before he fractured his skull, while Diego Costa is finding his feet and fitness - the former Chelsea man may prove to be a wildcard option. 

Nuno will also have to quickly decide whether he immediately reverts to a back-three or sticks to the back four that Lage implemented from the beginning of this season. The former proved to be successful but was given captain Conor Coady left for Everton during the summer window, he may have a rethink. Going back to a previously successful manager can be fraught with danger. 

However, with Nuno's track record, Wolves turning to him might just be the safest and most bankable option yet.

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