Just over four years ago a Wigan Athletic team that was to finish in 11th place in the Premier League was gradually dismantled. The books were not being balanced, so the prized assets were cashed in and the wage bill slashed.
In the January transfer window Wilson Palacios left for Tottenham and Emile Heskey for Aston Villa for good money. At the end of the season Antonio Valencia was sold to Manchester United for serious cash, but then Lee Cattermole followed Steve Bruce to Sunderland at a discount fee. Michael Brown was to start a couple of league games under the new manager before being released to join Portsmouth.
Roberto Martinez started his reign at Wigan under a blanket of austerity. It was to continue for his four year tenure at the club.
Will the same happen again? Are we going to see another fire sale and the selling of prized assets?
We are told that the club is in a good state financially and does not need to sell off its assets. Players had it written in their contracts that were the club to be relegated their salaries would be adjusted accordingly. Given the considerable parachute payments due to be received would it be possible for Latics to keep all their players who remain under contract and challenge for an immediate return to the Premier League?
Dave Whelan has consistently said that he will not stand in the way of a player who wants to go to a big club, providing the price is right. The joint sales of Palacios and Valencia in 2009 realised somewhere in the region of £30 million. Do Latics have assets of that kind of stature in the current squad?
James McCarthy stands out as Wigan’s most prized asset. Although only 22 years old he has made over 100 Premier League appearances and is a complete player, with a good temperament. There is already a lot of big club interest in him and Latics might well benefit from a bidding war between them. A fee in excess of £15 million is realistic.
Callum McManaman caught the eyes of the big clubs near the end of the season with some dynamic displays. However, he remains unproven over a Premier League season and has suffered a serious injury. Latics would be wise to hang on to him for the moment. He will be a handful for Championship defenders and could develop into a top player over the coming season. If he continues to progress he is going to be worth big money a year from now. However, if a ridiculous offer were to come in over the next couple of months he might well be released.
Arouna Kone is an excellent centre forward who scored 11 goals and made 5 assists in his first Premier League season. It is rumoured that Swansea are willing to pay £5 million for him. It is not big money for a player of his quality, but he is 29 years old and that is a factor. Kone has a release clause in his contract that sets a £6.5 million maximum fee. Kone could terrorise teams in the Championship and one hopes that Latics will be loath to let him go for a relatively small financial gain.
The press continues to buzz about Latics players who want to stay in the Premier League, with its inflated salaries. However, those same players signed contracts with the relegation clause included.
This columnist urges Dave Whelan to send an unequivocal message to those players that they are expected to stay and get the club back into the Premier League. Only if a ridiculously high offer comes in should it be considered.
Players like Ali Al Habsi, Shaun Maloney, Ben Watson and James McArthur will not fetch the same level of transfer fee of those players aforementioned. To let them go for a few million would be a backwards step. They are the kinds of players who could form the backbone of a promotion-winning team.
Let’s have no fire sale at Wigan!