Premier league summers have historically been a time of dread for the Wigan Athletic supporter. While Chelsea, United, Liverpool and Arsenal — recently joined by City and Spurs — are out spending their tens of millions, Latics face the two-headed beast of keeping their prized assets at the club and persuading new talent to join one of the league’s least fashionable outfits.
It was Bullard and Chimbonda that first season, it was Charles N’Zogbia last season, and there’ve been plenty in between. The fact is, Latics’ recruitment strategy is based on the promise to young or unproven foreign players that they will be given the chance to develop their game at Wigan before eventually moving on to a bigger club. So the question is really not “will he leave?” but “when and how will he leave?” It is a calculation involving two key factors: how easy or hard he is to replace, and what is his potential value? (Which depends largely on how many years he has left on his Wigan contract)
This year’s case is a classic example. Victor Moses is by far Latics most saleable asset. Young, undeniably talented, physically imposing, he is the player that can make something out of nothing. If media reports are to be believed, he wants out, with Chelsea the most likely destination. His agent, Tony Finnegan, has been banging the transfer drum for most of the summer. He only has a year left on his contract and appears unwilling to sign a new one, meaning he could leave on a free transfer a year from now. It is believed that Latics are asking for something in the region of 9-10 million pounds. Is one season of Vic worth that much money to a club with limited resources at this level like Wigan?
Don’t get me wrong. We’d all love Victor to sign a new Wigan contract, give us another season, and if he must leave, do so for a decent sum of money. But the fact of the matter is that looks highly unlikely. And so, if the question is leave now for 9-10 million, or stay and leave for a tribunal set fee nowhere near our valuation of the player, the answer has to be go now. Progress is being made all the way from the first team down to the youth squad, but we must realize that it is player sales like those of Luis Valencia and Wilson Palacios that have allowed for that money to be invested in long-term sustainability. As valuable as he is to the first team, we need to cash in on him while we can — the time is now.
Chelsea, however, are not making things so easy. In addition to the existing competition like Juan Mata, Daniel Sturridge, Florent Malouda, Yossi Benayoun and Gael Kakuta, they’ve signed three more attacking mid or winger types in Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Brazilian Oscar. Vic would almost certainly spend most of the season on his backside, on the bench, although he is potentially better than many of the aforementioned. Potential is the key word, however — the irony is that what he needs to break into the Chelsea team is another year at Wigan.
And so… what if a deal could be negotiated in which Chelsea bought him this year but loaned him back to us for further development? Wigan would lower their valuation a couple million to account for the season-long loan, Chelsea would have their man and not risk losing him to someone else next summer when he becomes a free agent, and the player himself would benefit from continued development. Unlikely scenario, but worth a discussion?
The capture of Ivan Ramis has hardly been headline news around the country but represents a major coup for Roberto. Very few Martinez signings boast extensive experience in a top level league. The more experienced players like Gary Caldwell or Antolin Alcaraz came from weaker leagues. Others like Ali Al-Habsi or Franco Di Santo were reserves at their Premier League clubs. Even the promising youngsters who have grown up in Latics colours like Moses himself, McCarthy or McArthur came from the Championship or Scotland.
But Ramis is more than experienced. He is the right age, at 27, to come in and make an instant impact but still have a potentially long career at Wigan. He provides competition in the centre of defense, but could also free up Maynor Figueroa to play a more attacking wing-back role should Jean Beausejour ever get injured or need a rest. He spent his entire career at Mallorca and appears to be a loyal professional. Last season, Mallorca’s defense kept 10 clean sheet and finished 8th in the Spanish first division. His style is physical, but we can expect his distribution to be good. And he apparently rejected West Ham in order to join us, which is icing on the cake. Although I’ve not seen this last nugget confirmed by a reliable source.