London, June 26, 2020 (AFP) - Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo is confident the club can retain their best players even if they fail in a surprise bid to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Wolves travel to Midlands rivals Aston Villa on Saturday still pushing for a top-four finish in only their second season back in the Premier League.
Nuno's side are currently sixth, five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and level on points with Manchester United.
Fifth position, however, could be good enough to gain entry into the Champions League if Manchester City's two-year European ban for breaching financial fair play rules is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Ruben Neves, Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez have all been linked with moves away from Molineux should Wolves fail to secure a place among Europe's elite.
But an upbeat Nuno said Friday: "I don't think that's the reason they are here. The reason is they enjoy working together so we don't have to achieve anything to retain them.
"We don't think about that (the top four). There's no race for anything, the race is to compete, improve and make good games."
The Portuguese boss added: "I'm very proud of the work we have been doing ... We have achieved important and remarkable things but still have a long way to go, there is still a lot of room to improve."
Wolves followed a 2-0 win at West Ham with another behind-closed-doors victory in Wednesday's 1-0 defeat of Bournemouth.
Although the lockdown gave Wolves, in common with all other Premier League sides, a lengthy break from action, it's still been a long season for Nuno's men after they started the campaign in July last year due to Europa League qualification.
"Fifty games in one season for us is many more than other teams, and it's very demanding on the players," said Nuno.
"Since we've come back, the players have been amazing.
"Our philosophy is like trying to fill a big bottle of water - each day you have to put something in there because you're going to need it for the future, it's a simple view."