Roberto Martinez has begun his Wigan Athletic exit, entering talks with Everton, and some of Wigan's best players are set to follow him out of the door.
The FA Cup-winning manager looks to have brought to a conclusion his four-year spell at the DW Stadium, which ended with relegation from the Premier League earlier this month. He is the clear front-runner for the vacancy at Goodison Park and will talk to Everton this week about succeeding David Moyes, who has left to manage Manchester United.
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan granted Everton and Martinez permission to talk to one another but he insisted that Everton will have to pay Wigan the £2m remaining on Martinez's contract.
"Everton chairman Bill Kenwright rang me last week and, being a perfect gentleman, asked if our talks broke down could he have permission to talk to Roberto," Whelan revealed this morning. "I immediately said yes. I have given them permission to talk to Roberto.
"He feels he's not the man to lead us back into the Premier League. I've got to accept what he feels."
Everton spoke to in-house candidates – including David Weir – two weeks ago, external candidates who were out of contract last week, and are this week are speaking to those, like Martinez, who are contracted at other clubs. But the 39-year-old Spaniard is the clear favourite to take over at the side who finished sixth in the Premier League this season.
Wigan, though, will be playing in the Championship in the 2013-14 season, and with the manager gone many of their best players are now looking for the exit. Shaun Maloney, Wigan's player of the season, is understood to be keen to leave so that he is playing Premier League football again next season. Maloney has two years left on his contract at Wigan but is certain to attract top flight interest.
James McCarthy, another creative player who joined from the Scottish Premier League, is also sure to attract interest from England's biggest clubs, and is similarly keen to move on for the sake of his career. Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have a long-standing interest in the 22-year-old and have been closely monitoring developments.
Arouna Koné, who impressed with 13 goals in his first season in English football, despite going to the Africa Cup of Nations mid-season, is another who is certain to be popular with Premier League clubs and not keen to stay in the second tier.
Those are likely to be the highest-profile departures, but James McArthur and Callum McManaman are likely to attract interest while Ben Watson is also understood to be keen to keep playing in the top flight.
Three Wigan Athletic players are out of contract this summer and they are all certain to leave.
Paraguayan international centre-back Antolin Alcaraz has no intention of signing a new deal and will leave to play top-flight football somewhere in Europe. He is understood to have offers from the Premier League and Bundesliga but Portuguese giants Benfica lead the race for him.
Maynor Figueroa, who has been at Wigan for five and a half seasons, is also out of contract and is set to sign with a Premier League club. West Ham United were favourites for his signature but Hull City, whose manager Steve Bruce brought Figueroa to England, are also in the race.
Argentine Franco Di Santo is also a free agent this summer.
A mass exodus from Wigan will mean a very difficult job for whoever replaces Martinez this summer, but Whelan said he was getting on with the business of finding the right man. Wigan are currently inviting applications, and the early favourites are departing Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen and Martinez's assistant Graeme Jones.
"It is so sad to lose him, but football being football I've got to get on, get that vacancy filled and find a manager to take us back to Premier League," Whelan said. "I want the best manager I can get hold of. You've always got to look on the bright side."
Next season they will have a 46-game Championship season, at least six games in the Europa League, which they enter at the group stage and, rather less onerously, the Community Shield against Moyes's Manchester United in early August. Given all the likely departures, it will be a difficult task.
Whelan was pleased with the team Martinez looks likely to join.
"Everton are a fantastic club, very local, very, very well run, great fan base, even bigger than Wigan's, very happy club, I recommended Roberto to go and talk to Everton.
"If he decided to leave us, he is a must for Everton. He plays football from back to front, and Everton like to play football from back to front. In my mind he is tailor-made to manage Everton."Reuse content