Wigan give Villa permission to court Martinez
Aston Villa have been granted permission by Wigan Athletic to speak to Roberto Martinez about becoming the club's new manager.
The development came as Villa pulled out of advanced negotiations to appoint Steve McClaren because of an internet-led backlash from supporters. Rafael Benitez has also been ruled out of the running, having also received a phone call yesterday from the club's hierarchy.
It is now up to Martinez to decide whether he wants the job -- and there were indications last night that he could be minded to stay at the DW Stadium -- but Villa's interest in him is not in doubt.
Villa's approach was confirmed last night by Wigan chairman Dave Whelan. "Aston Villa have acted above board and in a totally professional manner," he said.
"They wrote to me asking for permission to speak to Roberto. He was on holiday at the time and I granted Villa permission. I presume he has spoken to Villa. I have made it clear to him I will be extending his contract. I know I can never say never in football, but I'd be very surprised if he is Aston Villa's new manager."
Martinez has one year left on his deal at Wigan so compensation would be minimal. However, it is understood he feels he owes a debt of loyalty to Whelan, who stuck by him when there was pressure to sack him and is not likely to ask to leave.
If Martinez turns Villa down it may open the way for either Alan Curbishley or, more likely, Claudio Ranieri. Both are out of work.
The snap decision to turn against McClaren is even more surprising because Villa are not intending to spend big this summer and want a manager who can work with some of the club's exciting emerging young talent -- something the former England manager has championed throughout his career.
McClaren is understood to be devastated by Villa's decision, especially as it appears to have been based on the negative reaction of some fans on club websites and forums. Some of those comments have been particularly vitriolic.
He had rejected Villa's overtures last year to join them, having agreed a move to take over at German club Wolfsburg, and although that did not work out, McClaren's stock still appeared to remain high.
Villa's decision represents a significant setback in his career and would appear to suggest that he remains tainted by his time in charge of England which ended with the failure to qualify for Euro 2008.
Villa were then expected to turn to Benitez, who has lobbied hard for the job. However, the former Liverpool manager is also out of the running after Lerner proved unwilling to commit to a £60m transfer budget. (© Daily Telegraph, London)