Jean-Ricner Bellegarde simply could not turn down an opportunity in the Premier League with Wolves even if Starsbourg ‘did everything to keep him’, the Ligue 1 club’s president Marc Keller explains.
If the first-half of Wolves 3-1 defeat at home to Liverpool last time out is a sign of things to come, then Gary O’Neil may have one of the summer’s best bargain buys on his hands.
Wolverhampton Wanderers signed Jean-Ricner Bellegarde for around £13 million on deadline day – rising their bid after an initial offer of £7 million was turned down – and the former Strasbourg talisman wasted no time in bringing his supreme recent form across the Channel. Bellegarde was a constant menace to the Liverpool backline; carrying the ball with poise and purpose while combining brilliantly with his new Molineux team-mates.
And Keller, speaking to AS, insists that – while Strasbourg had hoped to convince Bellegarde to stay put – they would not force him to do so when Wolves made an offer that met their demands.
Jean-Ricner Bellegarde shining at Wolves already
“Concerning Jean, the door was half-open. Why half-open? Because he had already spent four years at Racing, and we had extended his contract a year and a half ago,” Keller explains.
“You cannot force the player to stay at the club for ten years. Jean knew that we would not block him, of course, but also that to defend the interests of Racing, we would not do any gifts. This is what happened.”
Before Wolves got their man, a Nice side backed by British billionaire – and prospective Manchester United owner – Sir Jim Ratcliffe saw an offer of their own rebuffed.
“Nice’s offer of five million euros was immediately refused,” Keller adds. “It was on the last day of the transfer window that everything accelerated. First, there was a first offer refused at eight million euros (from Wolves), which was clearly not enough for me.
“Somewhere, the player was very clear with Racing regarding his future. When we keep players for four or five years, we can’t be blamed for not keeping them for six or seven years. This is no longer done in today’s football.
“We did everything to keep him.”
Wolves face Luton Town this weekend
Keller is full of praise for Bellegarde’s ‘impeccible behaviour’ during a frantic day of negotiations, accepting that Wolves had offered the midfielder an opportunity he could not let pass him by.
“The financial conditions in England were difficult to refuse,” Keller adds. “Even more so because Jean wanted to experience a new adventure in his career.”
Bellegarde is likely to make his second Wolves appearance during Saturday’s trip to Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.