Why did Julen Lopetegui leave Wolves just days before the new 2023/24 Premier League season?
It is quite rare in modern football that a club changes its manager in the days leading up to the start of a new season.
Managers typically need time to implement their plans in preseason and the benefit of an open summer transfer window to sign new players for their squads.
So Wolves’ decision to part company with boss Julen Lopetegui on August 8, just five days before they open their new season at Manchester United on August 14 has certainly raised a few eyebrows around the Premier League and wider football world, although it did seem inevitable in some ways.
The Sporting News explains the Lopetegui situation and what’s happening at Molineux right now.
Why did Julen Lopetegui leave Wolves just days before the season?
It has seemed for some time that Lopetegui would depart Wolves — it was merely a question of when.
The 56-year-old had become agitated at the club’s lack of activity in the transfer market, the hierarchy failing to back him after he guided them to 13th in the Premier League last season. They’d been 19th in the table, with 10 points from 13 games, when he took over in November 2022.
The club released a statement saying the two parties “accepted their differences of opinion on certain issues and agreed that an amicable end to his contract was the best solution”.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 8, 2023
Lopetegui was reportedly promised new players, but only Matt Doherty — returning to the club on a free transfer — has arrived at Molineux this summer.
The club is trying to abide by the Premier League’s Financial Fair Play rules and therefore Wolves are limited when it comes to spending. They sold star midfielder Ruben Neves to Saudi Pro League club Al-Hilal earlier in the summer for £47million, but haven’t replaced him.
Lopetegui is no stranger to unconventional exits. He was sacked as Spain national team boss on the eve of the 2018 World Cup in Russia after agreeing to take the Real Madrid job as soon as the tournament had ended.
Julen Lopetegui contract, next job
It was initially thought that Lopetegui would remain at Wolves, after talks throughout the summer between the manager and the club’s hierarchy.
He had a contract that ran until the end of the 2024/25 season and appeared to have a solid relationship with Matt Hobbs, the club’s sporting director. Hobbs had said at one stage the Spaniard was “committed” to the role.
Lopetegui’s contract has now, of course, been terminated by mutual consent.
Lopetegui said: “I wish Wolves and everybody at the club the very best of luck for the future, and thank them for the opportunity granted at the time to take charge of this wonderful club.”
🚨𝐁𝐑𝐄𝐀𝐊𝐈𝐍𝐆 : Julen Lopetegui has left Wolves, ending the Spaniard’s nine- months reign as head coach at the club. ⚠️🟡 #Wolves
Ex-Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil set to replace him.
O’Neil guided Bournemouth to Premier League safety last season with a 15th-place. pic.twitter.com/wc1xssbGWE
— Topskills Sports UK (@topskillsportuk) August 8, 2023
Gary O’Neil new Wolves manager after Lopetegui exit?
Former Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil is, according to widespread reports, going to be the next man in the Wolves hot seat.
His appointment is imminent and he is expected to be in the dugout for the club’s opening Premier League fixture — away at Manchester United on Monday August 14.
The extra two days’ preparation created by the Monday night fixture may well be a blessing for O’Neil and his staff, with Lopetegui expected to be followed out of the exit door by his own assistants, Pablo Sanz and Juan Vicente Peinaldo.
How to watch Wolves in Premier League 2023/24
|Hong Kong||—||Now TV|
|India||Star Sports||Disney+, Hotstar,|
|Malaysia||Astro SuperSport||Astro Go|
|New Zealand||Sky Sport||Sky Sport Now,|
|UK||Sky Sports, TNT Sports||NOW TV, Sky Go,|
UK: Matches are carried across Sky Sports and TNT Sports streaming and TV platforms, with select matches on Amazon Prime.
USA: Select matches are televised on USA Network (English) and Telemundo or Universo (Spanish), and all three channels can be streamed on Fubo. The rest of the matches are streamed on NBC platform Peacock for subscribers.
Canada: Every Premier League game this season is live streamed exclusively via Fubo in Canada.
Australia: Fans in Australia can stream every match live and on demand on Optus Sport.
India: Star Sports network has the rights to show Premier League matches in India. As well as an English broadcast on Star Sports Select, select matches will be available via regional feeds on Star Sports 3 (in Bengali, English, Kannada, Malayalam), Star Sports 1 (Bangla) and Star Sports 1 (Tamil).