Nuno | On Jimenez, training and damages to football

Nuno Espirito Santo described Raul Jimenez as “an amazing player” and insists both player and club are lucky to have each other.

The Mexican hit Wolves’ winner against Leeds United on Monday and is ready to lead the line once again on Sunday, as Newcastle United visit Molineux. The head coach praised his striker’s application and commitment, while also discussing a full week of training and the greater effect the pandemic is having on the sport.

On managing Jimenez’s minutes

“With Raul, it’s been a challenge for him and for us to manage the minutes that he plays, and how much he’s involved since he played that competition with Mexico at the beginning of last season, and everything went from there. But he’s been able to perform very well and to sustain levels of fitness really well.

“This is always a challenge for him, and for us to manage and to deal with the situation, but I see Raul is very, very well. I see him fresh. I see him available, and when he’s like that, all the talent that he has emerges and he’s able to so much help the team.

“He respects himself very well, the timings and days he needs to recover, he’s really committed. He competes always at the highest level he can. We are not worried, not only about Raul, or all the squad.”

On Jimenez’s ability

“He’s amazing, fantastic, very good. So much talent, so much commitment, so much ambition. We are very pleased. He has to keep on going. Don’t stop. He knows that, and that it’s the time to improve.

“Wolves are lucky to have him, and he has luck to be in Wolves also, because the team help him so much. His teammates help him so much. It’s a two-way situation. The team is set up to play the game and the players do their tasks inside the game.”

On Wolves’ contact with Mexico

“Raul has always been involved in the national team and what we did, and do, is change information with the national team staff, not only Raul, but all the national teams. We try to exchange as much information we can, so we can deal with the players.”

On having a full week of training

“This moment, it’s very important that we have time in the training ground. It’s important for all the players who have arrived, the new ones, as well as the players who were here, because of the format and the timing of the pre-season that we had, and this week was good. We had time, we had chance to work on things that we want to improve, so it was a good week.

“It’s very important that they [new players] realise that we have to go fast, we have to make our time very useful for everybody, and then we’ll see. As long as the players are committed, healthy, and with the willing to make things happen, things will happen naturally, and then it will be up to us to decide where we do it.

“The foundation is the identity. If you already have a foundation, you just have to go from there. You’re not building something new, it’s just a continuation of the process. Evolving comes naturally, based on your own foundations. Of course, players go out, different pieces come in, inside the same foundation and identity.”

On still no fans in stadiums

“I find these times very confusing. One thing for sure, we need our fans back in stadiums as soon as possible. They are the most important part of football. We are taking a big risk with what’s happening. I hope our fans come back the same numbers as before. I really hope so. I don’t want to imagine anything else.

“It’s normal, if you get used to something. After day by day, you get games sitting on your couch. There are some generations who are now getting into football in a different format. They only see games on TV. They never feel the atmosphere, they don’t know it, I don’t know if they will go for the first time. I just really want fans to go back.”

On the greater effect on football

“The risk is imminent. It’s happening now. The effect the pandemic has on football, the absence of being able to practice football in parks, Sunday football, all this being away has an effect on the future. Especially, we are in generations.

“Even in terms of football players growing up, this moment will have an effect. The boys that are 14, 15 years old, if they are not able to practice football on a daily basis, it’s disruption. Maybe we’ll find ourselves in five years’ time that there’s a gap of footballers, who suffered this specific pandemic.

“It has an effect on football and fans, and it’s worrying. Then comes the conflict, why some activities are yes, some no, why some countries are opening partially stadiums, and not in other countries, but it’s political decisions and only history will judge.”