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Premier League

Villa forced to widen manager search


Wigan Athletic have given Aston Villa permission to speak to Roberto Martinez about their vacant manager's position, though loyalties to his present club were weighing heavily on the Spaniard's mind last night, after a day in which Steve McClaren's hopes of the position were dashed and Rafael Benitez was told that Villa could not match his spending ambitions.

Villa approached Wigan chairman Dave Whelan about Martinez last week. He granted them permission, having offered the 37-year-old a contract extension, and resigned himself to losing the individual he has described as the best young manager in Europe. But Martinez has indicated in the last 24 hours that he feels duty-bound to pursue the role he has been given for Whelan for at least another year.

That would leave Villa short of options. Steve McClaren had grounds to believe that he might succeed Gérard Houllier but communication from the club yesterday told him that he had not been successful. Benitez has also been in contact with Villa, but the former Liverpool manager is understood to have been informed yesterday morning that Villa's transfer budget did not match his ambitions.