Ian Evatt insists Bolton Wanderers do not have to sell players regardless of how much money they are offered this summer for any of their prized assets and vowed key duo Ricardo Almeida Santos and Dapo Afolayan are happy at the club.
Wanderers are poised for a top 10 finish in their first season back in League One and are set to strengthen the squad this summer.
Though Bolton want to add further additions in a bid to make a promotion charge next season, they are also seeking to retain some of their biggest assets.
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These include Santos and Afolayan, who have been two of the stars of the season at Wanderers, with the former becoming the club’s captain and the latter the current top scorer with 14 goals.
Santos is under contract until the summer of 2023 and talks in earnest are planned in the weeks to come over extending that deal, while Afolayan is tied down on a deal until mid-2024.
Though Evatt knows full well that any player has a price and admits that a call may have to be made should offers come in for the likes of Afolayan or Santos, but he is not under any pressure to sell players.
And he believes that the grass is not always greener on the other side and that what Wanderers can offer and does offer the players must be born in mind, but that if any clubs do come calling then they will have to cough up big money.
Evatt said: “We don’t have to sell – and it doesn’t matter how much money clubs come to offer us, I will make the decision based on what is best for Bolton Wanderers. I am under no pressure from Sharon or the board to sell players to get money back in. We don’t need it and we’re in a great financial position now, that pressure has gone away.
“But anyone who says that some players don’t have a price knows it is nonsense. Everyone has a price and it is that tipping point or trade off when you look at the player we want and then what we can do with the club in general, not just the team, there would be a point where it evens out and we would have to make a call.
“For now, though, we want to keep all of our assets on the pitch. We have improved them, whether it is Rico or Dapo.
“Dapo was in West Ham’s Under-23s and couldn’t really get an opportunity. Rico has admitted himself he was playing for Barnet and probably two weeks away from becoming an Amazon driver, look how his world has changed?
“We appreciate everything those players have done for us and of course there will be clubs interested in signing them. But what I will say is that the grass is not always greener.
“It is also what this club, the staff and this fanbase have done for the players as well, so it is a trade-off.
“We will do what we can within our means to keep hold of those players but if we get offered stupid money and we can do amazing things with it, not just with the team but the whole club, then we may look at it.
“But I stress, whoever that is must have deep pockets because Sharon and the board have put us in an amazing position. We’re under no pressure to sell anybody.”
Santos joined Wanderers in the summer of 2020, while Afolayan initially joined on loan from West Ham United in January 2021, before making the move permanent last summer.
Championship clubs have their eye on Santos, while reports have linked newly-promoted Fulham and Cardiff City with Afolayan.
But Evatt made it clear the pair are happy at Wanderers and they are well aware of the club they are at and can grow with to take them where they want to go in football.
Evatt said: “They are happy here and how can you not be? This is a brilliant football club and we have had a lot of success together in a short space of time.
“They were here last season and have seen how the club is evolving. They can achieve what they want to achieve in their own careers here. And that is one of the reasons why I came here in the first place.
“Bolton isn’t a stepping-stone, it is a club you grow with and get to the highest level you can.
“They are in a great place, they enjoy it, and they know that.
“Obviously there will be other teams who watch them and want to take them but that just means we are doing the right things as managers and coaches. We want people to look at our players and be envious. Long may that continue and whoever comes knocking, I hope they have deep pockets.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.