Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan has given Aston Villa permission to talk to Roberto Martinez over the vacant managerial position at Villa Park.
Within hours of Randy Lerner, the Villa owner, and Paul Faulkner, the chief executive, deciding against pursuing former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez and pulling out of negotiations with former England boss Steve McClaren, Wigan’s Spanish boss became their number one target, ahead of Bolton Wanderers’ Owen Coyle.
Villa’s interest in Martinez was confirmed by Whelan on Wednesday evening.
“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. He arrived back yesterday and I presume he has spoken to Villa. I have made it clear to him I will be extending his contract.”
Nonetheless, it is by no means certain that the former Swansea boss will take up the vacant position at Villa Park, and Whelan is hopeful that his relationship with the Spaniard will see Martinez remain at the DW Stadium.
“I have never let him down on anything and he has never let me down” added Whelan.
“I know I can never say never in football, but I would be very surprised if he is Aston Villa’s new manager.”
McClaren had been the bookmakers favourite to succeed Gerard Houllier, but would appear to have fallen victim to the negative reaction of fans on club websites, forums and social networking site Twitter, despite his proven track record of harnessing the talents of young players – see his work at Middlesbrough in guiding them to the 2006 Uefa Cup final, and also in winning the Eredivisie title with FC Twente in 2o1o – an area where Villa are well stocked with a group of talented youngsters.