Premier League referees’ boss Jon Moss apologised to Gary O’Neil and told him Wolves had been denied a “blatant” stoppage-time penalty in their 1-0 Premier League defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, according to the Wolves boss.

United’s debutant goalkeeper Andre Onana clattered into Sasa Kalajdzic deep into time added on, but Simon Hooper did not react and VAR Michael Salisbury deemed there was no foul, with an incredulous O’Neil instead booked for his reaction.

O’Neil said after the match he though Onana was trying to take Kalajdzic’s head off, and then revealed he had received an immediately apology from Moss.

“Having just spoken to Jon Moss, fair enough he came straight out and said it was a blatant penalty and it should have been given,” O’Neil said.

“I sometimes feel bad. I’ve spent a lot of my day with him trying to understand the new guidelines and how to not get myself booked which I’ve failed in, but fair play to Jon in coming out.

“He said it was clear and obvious and he can’t believe the on-field referee didn’t give it and he can’t believe VAR didn’t intervene. It’s probably made me feel worse to be honest because once you know you’re right you feel worse about leaving with nothing.”

United boss Erik ten Hag tried to play down the incident, but he was largely alone in thinking the officials got the decision right.

“When VAR looked at it and decided not to give it of course we are pleased,” the Dutchman said. “It’s about the referee and the VAR. I think the two players come together and Andre didn’t interfere with the action from them because first was the touch on the ball and then came Andre.”

The controversial decision was not the only thing that left the impression United had been lucky to take three points from their opening Premier League match, with Raphael Varane’s 76th-minute header decisive in a laboured performance from the hosts.

With O’Neil only a few days into his tenure, Wolves impressed with their attacking intent. They registered 23 attempts at goal, the most for any visiting team at Old Trafford since Chelsea had 25 in November 2005, another match that ended in a 1-0 win for United.

Scoring goals was an all-too-familiar problem for Wolves last term but O’Neil was encouraged by what he saw.

“Huge credit to the lads,” O’Neil said. “There’s been some negativity surrounding the place but they’ve committed to what we asked of them and gone toe to toe with a top side at a difficult place to come and they’re disappointed.

“For the amount of shots we’ve had and the expected goals, we deserved at least a point…

“Bigger picture stuff and where we want to take the group, tonight is a big step four days in. Coming to a place like this it could have gone very differently.”

United struggled to find any flow and were second best in the second half until Aaron Wan-Bissaka latched on to a dinked ball from Bruno Fernandes, and lifted the ball over for Varane to nod home.

“It was a tough game,” Ten Hag said. “I think we can do much better on the ball. We proved that last season and also in pre-season but the pre-season is not the season and when the league starts opponents are more aggressive.

“Our decision-making could have been better and were not aggressive enough from that point of view, but there are a lot of positives to take. We fought for our lives and we survived with three points so well done.”

Manchester United survived a late VAR scare as Raphael Varane’s second-half goal saw them edge past an impressive Wolves to get their Premier League campaign off to a winning start at Old Trafford.

Varane headed home from close range with 14 minutes remaining to ensure an unconvincing display from Erik Ten Hag’s team ended in a 1-0 victory that was barely deserved.

Indeed, it looked like Wolves might get the chance to equalise from the penalty spot at the death when goalkeeper Andre Onana appeared to clatter into Sasa Kalajdzic, but referee Simon Hooper waved away protests and VAR backed his decision.

It felt harsh as few will have seen a performance like this coming from Wolves, whose plans for the season were thrown into disarray last week when boss Julen Lopetegui left just five days before kick-off, with Gary O’Neil coming in.

O’Neil, who was sacked at Bournemouth after keeping them up last season, will have been thrilled at what he saw as his new side put in a slick counter-attacking display that had United on the run for the majority of the game.

But it was old failings that came back to haunt them as they could not take any of their chances, with the electric Matheus Cunha hitting the post in the second half.

United will know a display like this will not be good enough, but they at least got the job done to ensure they join Manchester City and Arsenal in taking maximum points in the opening weekend of the campaign.

There was a small scale demonstration outside the ground before kick-off as United fans again chanted against the Glazers and the lengthy sale process of the club, which has been going on since November.

However, planned protests against the possibility of Mason Greenwood being integrated back into the squad did not extend beyond the odd banner, with the forward’s fate still unknown as the club are still in a consultation phase following the conclusion of their internal investigation.

The off-the-pitch issues have not clouded what was a promising pre-season for Ten Hag’s men, though they could not translate that into a cohesive performance in the opening 45 minutes.

In fact, to much surprise given their build-up to the season, Wolves were the better team as they had United running scared with pace on the break, creating two excellent openings to take the lead.

In the 26th minute a lightning counter attack saw Cunha surge forward and pass to Pablo Sarabia, but it was slightly behind him and the Spaniard saw his drilled effort go just wide with the aid of a deflection.

Another slick move saw roles reversed six minutes later as Sarabia’s excellent pass played in Cunha, but he dragged his shot wide after bursting into the box.

That acted as something of a wake-up call to United, who came to life in the final 10 minutes of the first half.

There were loud shots for a penalty when Marcus Rashford headed against the arm of Nelson Semedo, but the Wolves defender managed to tuck his limb in just in the nick of time.

But Wolves rediscovered their counter-attacking verve after the break and should have led in the 50th minute.

Another lung-busting break from Cunha, who ran virtually the length of the pitch, saw him lay the ball off to Sarabia and it came back to him at the far post, but, slightly off balance, his shot clipped the outside of the post.

The hosts were petrified of Cunha and their defence parted in alarming fashion five minutes later but saw a low shot saved by Andre Onana.

Cunha was at it again in the 71st minute with another run that had United floundering and the loose ball fell to Pedro Neto, but he shot straight at Onana.

There was an inevitability about what was to come as Wolves paid for their lack of cutting edge when United stole the lead in the 76th minute.

Bruno Fernandes unlocked the defence to play in Aaron Wan-Bissaka and his cross from the right was headed home by Varane from close range.

Wolves knocked on the door for an equaliser and Fabio Silva had a hat-trick of chances but was denied by Onana’s legs twice while Luke Shaw produced a goal-saving block to earn his side victory.

The visitors thought they should have had a penalty in the sixth minute of time when Onana went walkabouts, but Hooper and VAR denied them.

Gary O’Neil has been appointed as the new Wolves head coach on a three-year contract following the departure of Julen Lopetegui.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the key issues in his in-tray at Molineux.

Steady ship and pick up morale

It has been a turbulent summer at the club. Relegation was ultimately avoided with something to spare last season, but then problems began as the reinforcements Lopetegui wanted did not arrive and some key players left. With rumours of disquiet growing louder by the week, the players left have effectively been told throughout pre-season that they are not good enough. Morale will likely be low and one of O’Neil’s first tasks will be to restore some order.

Get the fans onside

As well as getting the players on board, O’Neil is going to have to win over the fans. After the high-profile appointment of Lopetegui, a former Spain and Real Madrid coach with a strong reputation, the arrival of the former Bournemouth boss is underwhelming by comparison. It was clear some supporters were beginning to tire of Lopetegui’s complaints and perhaps felt replacing him now was better than allowing the situation to deteriorate further, but they could be forgiven for having doubts about the new man at the helm. Despite making an impression at Bournemouth last season, he remains relatively inexperienced and needs to prove himself.

Identify modest targets

The root of Lopetegui’s problems with the club was their need to balance the books. After spending heavily prior to the Spaniard’s arrival, a tightening of the purse strings has been necessary to ensure compliance with Financial Fair Play regulations. The implication from Lopetegui was that he was not aware of the extent to which this was necessary and consequently felt let down. After that rumpus, O’Neil should be more aware of the club’s financial constraints. The squad will need strengthening in areas, particularly in terms of strikers, and he will need to identify realistic targets.

Make a point to Bournemouth

This will not be in his in-tray as such, but O’Neil will also be driven by personal ambitions as well as those of the club. He took over in difficult circumstances at Bournemouth early last season, when Scott Parker was sacked after saying his squad was “under-equipped” to compete in the Premier League. He took the same group of players and guided them to a 15th-placed finish. His subsequent dismissal by the Cherries was widely regarded as harsh. By making an impact at Molineux he can undoubtedly make a point.

Prepare for Old Trafford

There will be little time to settle before the first game of the Premier League season arrives, and it is hardly a straightforward opener. Wolves travel to Manchester United on Monday. He will need to catch up quickly on Wolves’ pre-season performances, analyse what he has at his disposal and put a team together. It is a tall order but, in terms of assessing United, he may at least have some recent work to fall back on, having faced Erik ten Hag’s side in his penultimate match with Bournemouth.

Julen Lopetegui has parted company with Wolves just days before the start of the new Premier League season.

Here, the PA news agency looks at what went wrong for the Spaniard.

Wasn’t the appointment of Lopetegui considered a coup and wasn’t he doing well?

Yes, when Wolves brought in the former Spain and Real Madrid manager last November, with the team in the relegation zone, it seemed the club had made a smart appointment. Given that Lopetegui had initially turned them down too, they had shown great determination to recruit him. He repaid them by comfortably guiding the club to survival. It was not spectacular but he steadied the ship and form in the spring was a clear uplift on the football of his predecessor Bruno Lage.

So, the foundations were there to build on. Where did it start to go wrong?

At the end of last season there were rumblings that the club would need to match Lopetegui’s ambition in order for him to stay on, despite having signed a three-year contract when he arrived. That meant strengthening a squad that fell short in many areas last term, particularly in the goal-scoring department. Yet, with the club also concerned about balancing the books, it appears they were unable to satisfy him and relations soured.

What have been the problems with the squad?

Wolves signed 10 senior players last season and brought in a further two on loan. Having posted a loss of £41.6million in their last set of financial results, this obviously suggested some sales would be required to prevent further deficit and to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations. Subsequently captain Ruben Neves left for Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal for a club record £47million and Raul Jimenez also moved on, with Matt Doherty the only notable arrival on a free transfer.

What was said about the situation?

Lopetegui voiced his frustration over the summer, saying that transfer activity had been a “big disappointment” and he was unable to enact his ideas. “We were excited by this new plan, but now we don’t have this plan because we don’t have any new players,” he said. Wolves chairman Jeff Shi put out his side of the story in an open letter to supporters last week. “We are also working hard to make sure the club have a long-term robustness and sustainability,” he wrote, adding that it was important to “maintain a sustainable balance of both sporting performance and financial strength”. It seems this only succeeded in bringing matters with Lopetegui to a head.

What happens next?

Given his track record and reputation, Lopetegui is not likely to have trouble finding his next job. Clubs will need to be wary his services come with high demands, however. Wolves are reportedly lining up former Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil as his replacement.

Julen Lopetegui’s nine-month spell as Wolves head coach has ended after reaching an “agreement to part ways” on the eve of the new Premier League season.

The former Spain and Real Madrid boss arrived in November after the club were successful in their second attempt in recruiting him to replace Bruno Lage.

Lopetegui guided the side away from the bottom of the table to a 13th-placed finish but apparent disagreement over the club’s recruitment policy over the summer has resulted in the 56-year-old departing.

“The head coach and club acknowledged and accepted their differences of opinion on certain issues and agreed that an amicable end to his contract was the best solution for all parties,” said a statement from the club.

“Talks have been ongoing in recent weeks, held with the utmost respect and cordiality, affording the club time and space to begin work on finding a successor, while also ensuring that Julen and his backroom staff could continue their planned preparation to ensure the playing squad would be in the best possible condition for the start of the Premier League season.”

In his own statement 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.

“It has been an honour to enjoy this adventure. Also, of course, I want to thank the players, who have always given the maximum to achieve our objectives, and especially the fans that made me feel like one of them from the very first moment and have always been amazing to me, my staff and my family.”

Boss Julen Lopetegui has revealed his frustration at Wolves’ transfer woes and admitted the club are struggling to sign players.

The head coach feels the problems spell “bad news” for him as he tries to rebuild after Premier League survival last season.

Wolves have signed just Matt Doherty on a free transfer, with the defender returning to Molineux three years after leaving for Tottenham.

They are interested in Bristol City’s Alex Scott and West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell but have sold Ruben Neves, Conor Coady, Nathan Collins and Raul Jimenez to raise around £84million.

Lopetegui needed assurances at the end of last season that Wolves, who need to comply with financial fair play rules, could invest and compete after he guided them to Premier League safety but remains unhappy.

“I came here with a project and idea that, if we were able to save the team, we would be able to improve,” he told Guillem Balague’s Pure Football podcast.

“It was bad news for me. I tried in the summer. This was plan A. We went to a plan B, trying to think about cost-effective players, but it’s true at the moment we can’t develop this plan, too.

“We lost a lot of players and we think the club want to sell more players. In this situation, we need players to balance the squad and be competitive in the Premier League.

“I know the sporting director, Matt Hobbs, and the recruitment, all this team, have worked very hard to have a plan A and plan B, but unfortunately we can’t develop this plan.

“It’s a pity because you are thinking at any moment key players can come and, in the end, they don’t for different reasons. We were excited by this new plan, but now we don’t have this plan because we don’t have any new players.

“We had a lot of players out and now we have only incorporated one new free player (Doherty). It is not just for me, but for the sporting director, a big disappointment.”

The manager also confirmed forward Daniel Podence is likely to be sold after he did not join the squad for their pre-season trip to Portugal, with Jimenez having already moved to Fulham this week.

“Daniel Podence is not here because the club want to sell him,” said Lopetegui.

“If you asked me yesterday morning about Raul, I think Raul is going to stay here and now he leaves. So I don’t know what else will happen, we will see.”

Republic of Ireland international Matt Doherty has completed a return to Wolves on a free transfer.

The defender has signed a three-year deal with the Molineux outfit, after making more than 300 appearances during his first spell at the club.

Doherty left Wolves after a decade of service to sign for Tottenham in 2020 but departed Spurs in January on a free transfer and joined Atletico Madrid on a six-month deal.

After the 31-year-old made only two appearances during his brief stint in Spain, he has now returned to England and will work under Julen Lopetegui.

Wolves sporting director Matt Hobbs said: “We’re really happy Matt’s back and he’s one the manager really wanted when he knew he was available.

“After Spurs and Atletico Madrid, he’s hungry to prove himself again and will add strength in depth to the full-back area, providing competition and making us better in those positions.

“He knows the club and what it means to play here – he’s been successful at Wolves before and knows what the fans want.

“For us, it’s another homegrown player, but one who can share his knowledge and the required standards across the group, so he will be able to slot back in no problem.”

Wolves have become the first club to be sanctioned by the Football Association solely over the homophobic chant of ‘Chelsea rent boy’ by their fans.

The Premier League side have been hit with a six-figure fine and imposed with an action plan by the FA after supporters chanted the slur during a fixture against Chelsea in April.

While the FA has always condemned the use of the term, a statement from the governing body in January confirmed to clubs they could now be charged with disciplinary action if their fans engage in discriminatory behaviour – including the use of the term ‘rent boy’.

Wolves have accepted breaches to FA rule E21 following incidents where written reasons for the charges stated: “a chant by a large number of supporters for a prolonged period of approximately 20 seconds each in the 61st and also in the 71st minutes.”

Three arrests were made by West Midlands Police for alleged homophobic chanting during the game.

Wolves have been fined £100,000 and issued an 11-point action plan as it was deemed their reaction and response to the homophobic chanting was inadequate.

In its written reasons for the charges, an Independent Regulatory Commission said a public announcement made 10 minutes after the chanting was heard was “weak” while the lack of reaction from matchday stewards was also condemned.

It was noted that the post-match response from Wolves deserved praise but the commission said there had been “a clear and significant break down between taking on board what The FA has said in its statement about the Chant and actually doing anything about it.”

Included in the action plan imposed alongside the fine and to begin from the 2023/24 season, the club has to communicate the outcome and response to the charge on their website, social media and in the next matchday programme.

In their response on their official website, a Wolves statement said: “We will continue to campaign for inclusivity in football and society and to tackle discriminatory abuse whether inside stadiums or online.

“Furthermore, Wolves will not cease in its work with supporters, communities and local stakeholders to drive LGBTQ+ inclusion and ensure the game we love is a place where everyone is respected and can feel safe playing or supporting their team.”

Other points on the action plan called for a full review of steward management, development of educational programmes, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work and a zero-tolerance media campaign.

Wolves will also have to review ticket sales policies, deploy announcements and messages to target the prevention of discriminatory chanting and have an FA compliance officer present at their next home game against Chelsea – currently scheduled for December 23.

There were 106 reported incidents of hate crime involving sexual orientation at matches in England and Wales during the 2021-22 season, according to Home Office figures released last year. That represented a 186 per cent increase on 2018-19, the last full season unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic, when there were 37 such incidents reported.

Last season the ‘rent boy’ chant was heard at Chelsea’s matches against Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, and also at the Manchester United v Everton FA Cup match, where it was aimed at then-Toffees boss Frank Lampard, a former Chelsea player and manager.

Earlier this week, a Fulham supporter was been banned from football for three years and fined after admitting a public order offence relating to homophobic chanting.

Brentford have completed the signing of Republic of Ireland defender Nathan Collins from Wolves for a club-record fee on a six-year deal.

The 22-year-old arrives in west London after spending just one season at Molineux, having previously played for Stoke and Burnley, and has 45 Premier League appearances to his name.

Bees head coach Thomas Frank likes what he has seen from Collins and feels he will prove to be “a perfect Brentford player”.

“I’m very pleased that we’ve managed to sign Nathan,” Frank told the club’s website.

“He’s a very talented centre-back and still young. He has a lot of very good abilities that we value a lot. He’s a composed and calm defender.

“His heading in both boxes is a big thing, both in open play and from set-pieces, which is massive in the Premier League.

“His character is really good, and we know that character is everything. He will fit into our culture, I have no doubt about that.

“I see leadership potential in Nathan. He’s a perfect Brentford player – hungry and ambitious with a desire to learn.”

Collins, who cost Brentford a reported £23million, is now aiming to help the club build on their highest-ever league finish after they ended the 2022-23 term in ninth place.

“I talked with the manager and a few of the backroom staff about the project here,” he said.

“It’s a club on the rise and I can see where they want to go. It’s exciting to be here.

“I like to play football. I want to dribble, play and create. It starts at the back. I can play long balls and short balls. But, at the end of the day, I’m a defender and I have to head the ball, win it and win my challenges.”

The arrival of Collins comes on the back of Brentford signing goalkeeper Mark Flekken from Freiburg, with Kevin Schade’s loan from the Bundesliga side also made permanent this summer.

Tributes have been paid to former Coventry and Wolves striker Cedric Roussel following his death on Saturday.

Belgium international Roussel, who was 45, joined the Sky Blues from Gent in 1999, initially on a loan deal, and played alongside Robbie Keane in the Premier League.

After some injury problems, Roussel joined Wolves in 2001, where he spent 18 months before returning to Belgium on loan to hometown club Mons.

Roussel, capped three times by the national team, also had spells at Genk, Rubin Kazan in Russia as well as Standard Liege before another move back to Mons later in his career.

“Our legend and ambassador Cedric Roussel passed away this Saturday,” Mons said in a statement on the club’s Twitter feed.

“The RAEC Mons family is devastated by this news and offers its most sincere condolences to Cedric’s family and loved ones. You marked our history.”

A statement from Coventry on Twitter read: “Coventry City are deeply saddened to learn of the death of our former striker Cedric Roussel, at the age of just 45.

“Cedric played 43 games for the Sky Blues from 1999-2001, scoring 11 goals. Our condolences are with his family and friends at this very sad time.”

Wolves said in a statement on the club’s Twitter feed: “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Cedric Roussel. Our former player has passed away aged just 45.”

Mons are planning a tribute to Roussel, who is reported to have suffered a cardiac arrest, during the match against Charleroi on Sunday.

The Belgium Football Association also passed on condolences to Roussel’s family and friends.

Wolves have confirmed the departure of captain Ruben Neves to Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal for a club record £47million.

The Portugal midfielder scored 30 goals in 253 appearances during six seasons at Molineux.

Neves wiped away tears in an emotional video posted on the Premier League club’s Twitter account, saying he had made “thousands of memories which will last forever”.

Wolves sporting director Matt Hobbs told his club’s website: “Ruben is the embodiment of everything you look for when trying to bring players into a football club: a leader, a humble man and an extremely talented footballer who took Wolves to a different level.

“He was part of a great era for this club and will go down as one of our best ever players.

“We are grateful for everything he has done for Wolves and wish him and his family the very best for the future.”

Neves, who had one year remaining on his contract, was part of the Wolves team which won the Sky Bet Championship title in 2018 following his move from Porto.

The 26-year-old then helped Wanderers to two consecutive seventh-placed finishes in the top flight, in addition to an FA Cup semi-final in 2019 and the Europa League quarter-finals in 2020.

He becomes the latest high-profile player to move to Saudi Arabia.

Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante have already completed free transfers to Al Ittihad this month, while Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Al Nassr in December.

Shortly before announcing the deal, Wolves posted a video on social media in which Neves sobbed and struggled to contain his emotions.

“Wolves, six seasons, 253 games, champions of the Championship, five years of Premier League football, an FA Cup semi-final, our European adventure and some huge wins,” he said.

“And thousands of memories which will last forever, what an unbelievable journey. I’ve worked with so many great people along the way.

“Every single moment was unforgettable.”

N’Golo Kante’s impending departure from Chelsea for Al-Ittihad and the prospect of several colleagues following him to the Middle East has thrust Saudi Arabia’s growing influence in football under the spotlight.

The potential flow of players from the big-spending Stamford Bridge club to the Gulf state has raised eyebrows in recent days amid allegations that the move could be a ploy to help it meet Financial Fair Play requirements.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look recent developments and how the Premier League could be affected.

Why are Chelsea offloading players?

The Blues have spent over £600million on players since American businessman Todd Boehly completed his takeover in May last year, including a £106.8million January swoop for World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez. They also splashed out £52million for RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku earlier this week.

Sales of the likes of Timo Werner and Jorginho have offset that expenditure only minimally and with the club having reported a loss of £121million for the 2021-22 season, Financial Fair Play rules which dictate that clubs can only make losses of £105million over three seasons are an issue.

Which players are reportedly involved?

Kante’s departure to the Gulf state may not be the last from Chelsea. Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy, Romelu Lukaku, Hakim Ziyech and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have also been linked with switches to Saudi clubs.

They are not alone either – Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves is expected to complete a move to Al-Hilal with former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo’s switch to Al-Nassr in January having established a clear pathway.

Why are so many players heading for Saudi Arabia?

The money on offer may have something to do with it. The Middle East state’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, took controlling stakes in four Saudi Pro League clubs – Al-Ahli, Al-Ittihad, Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr – earlier this month as part of the wider ‘Vision 2030’ plan to diversify the Saudi economy. The country’s rulers also believe a thriving professional sports scene will help drive up grassroots activity levels in the kingdom.

The Saudis have signalled their intention to mount a bid to host the 2030 World Cup, and raising the standard and profile of the domestic league could prove crucial to that mission. PIF has the financial clout to recruit big names to the cause with Karim Benzema having already agreed to join Al-Ittihad.

It is not the first time an emerging league has adopted similar tactics. Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Bobby Moore all played in the North American Soccer League at the end of their respective careers, while China has lured a host of top-flight stars to its Super League in recent years.

Public Investment Fund – that name sounds familiar?

It should. PIF holds an 80 per cent stake in Newcastle United, who have invested in excess of £250million in new signings since the Amanda Staveley-led consortium in which it is the major partner completed its buy-out at St James’ Park in October 2021.

The Magpies surged to a fourth-place finish in last season’s Premier League and secured Champions League football for the first time in 20 years to the delight of a fanbase which has been reinvigorated despite concerted criticism over the source of the club’s new-found wealth.

PIF, whose governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan is Newcastle’s chairman, is also a key player in the controversial merger between the LIV Golf series and the PGA and DP World Tours which has prompted fresh accusations of sportswashing.

Why all the fuss about Chelsea?

This is where it gets interesting. Private equity firm Clearlake Capital Group provided around 60 per cent of the funding for Boehly’s £2.5billion takeover and has underwritten much of the investment since; PIF is an investor with Clearlake. Financial experts have suggested such is the size of Clearlake’s portfolio that while some PIF money may form part of its holding in Chelsea, there is no direct link and therefore no risk of breaching Premier League rules which prohibit ownership of two clubs. However, the perception in some quarters is that any existing relationship between the Blues, the sovereign wealth fund and the four domestic clubs it now controls could allow them to sell on players for inflated fees and thereby reduce their FFP burden.

What has been said about the situation?

Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville, co-owner of League Two Salford, is unimpressed. Speaking to BBC Sport, Neville said: “The Premier League should put an instant embargo on transfers to Saudi Arabia to ensure the integrity of the game isn’t being damaged. Checks should be made on the appropriateness of the transactions.”

Wolves captain Ruben Neves is close to a £47million move to Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal.

The 26-year-old midfielder has been expected to leave Molineux this summer and is poised to become the latest high-profile player to move to the Middle East, the PA news agency understands.

Barcelona had held a long-term interest in the Portugal international but have not been able to get a deal over the line.

Wolves are now in talks with Al Hilal for Neves, who only had a year left on his contract, with a move – which will be a club-record sale – likely to be completed this week.

Karim Benzema completed a free transfer to Al Ittihad this month and Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante is linked with joining him, while Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Al Nassr in December.

A huge offer for Wolves would ease the financial pressures the club will be working under in the transfer window this summer.

They have been under pressure to sell to avoid breaching Premier League spending rules after splashing out £200m this term.

It led to doubts over Julen Lopetegui’s future but the former Real Madrid boss will stay at Molineux having received assurances.

Yet he will lose Neves, who has been central to Wolves’ success since joining from Porto in 2017.

He helped them win the Championship a year later and then to two consecutive seventh-placed finishes in the Premier League.

The club also reached the Europa League quarter-finals in 2020 – where they were knocked out by Lopetegui’s Sevilla – but have struggled to replicate that success and finished 13th last season having been bottom at Christmas.

Neves has made 253 appearances for Wolves in all competitions, scoring 30 goals.

Joao Moutinho and Diego Costa are to leave Wolves when their current contracts expire with Adama Traore still in talks over an extension.

The Premier League club’s sporting director Matt Hobbs has confirmed that 36-year-old Portuguese midfielder Moutinho and Brazil-born Spanish striker Costa, 34, will officially depart at the end of this month.

Hobbs told the club’s official website: “Joao’s going to go down as one of the best players to ever pull on the old gold, in my opinion.

“He was an integral part of the team the entire time he was here. Our success over the last four or five years, he’s been instrumental in. So, he now departs with nothing but thanks from the football club.

“We thank Joao for all he did at Wolves and wish him the best of luck for the future.”

Moutinho joined the club from Monaco in July 2018 and made 212 appearances for Wanderers.

On former Atletico Madrid and Chelsea frontman Costa, Hobbs added: “It feels the natural time to part ways because he was on a one-year contract. There was some internal conversations and we felt this was right.

“I’ve got no doubt that Diego will get another club off the back of his performances for sure. If a club calls me to ask about the person, he’ll get nothing but praise from me.”

Traore, however, could yet have a future at Molineux with manager Julen Lopetegui keen to keep the 27-year-old and discussions are ongoing.

Hobbs said: “He’s now out of contract, but it doesn’t mean there’s not an opportunity to still come to an agreement, so conversations will be ongoing. He’s probably earned the right to understand what else is out there.

“Sometimes it’s not possible, but we’ll certainly be trying. We hope we can come to an agreement but let’s see what happens over the next few weeks.”

Conor Coady has left Everton and returned to Wolves following his loan spell, with the Toffees having passed up an option to sign the defender on a permanent basis.

The Goodison Park club have also announced that former Wolves defender Ruben Vinagre will return to Sporting Lisbon after an injury-impacted loan spell on Merseyside.

Coady made 25 appearances for Everton this season, including a start in Sunday’s vital 1-0 win over Bournemouth which secured safety, and scored two goals.

Coady, capped 10 times by England, joined the Toffees last August in a deal which included an option to buy, but that option has now expired.

Vinagre made only four appearances in all competitions.

Everton director of football Kevin Thelwell said: “We want to sincerely thank Conor and Ruben for their impeccable professionalism and valuable contributions both on and off the pitch during their time with the club.

“We wish both players the best in their futures.”

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