ROBERTO Martinez will give Hugo Rodallega until the last possible moment before finalising his Wigan Athletic team to face Swansea on Saturday.
The Colombian made a lively impression off the bench against Norwich last weekend, despite having only had 12 days of pre-season conditioning following his exertions at the Copa America.
With another week of hard graft at Christopher Park under his belt, Rodallega has an outside chance of starting at the Liberty Stadium – although the Wigan boss is reluctant to push his star striker too much, too soon.
“It would be unfair to put Hugo into a position where he’s not ready to be – we’ll see how he goes for the rest of the week,” Martinez told the Evening Post.
“But the important thing is we need to make sure we get the most out of Hugo over the next 10 months and not just the next two weeks.
“To be fair, we never expected Hugo to be fit for the first league game of the season. And to see him out there was very, very positive.
“He’s still aiming to get back to full fitness, and he has been working extremely hard this week to do just that.
“As a player, when you finally get out there on the pitch after some time out, all you want to do is look forward to the next game – and Hugo is that type of boy.
“When he came on against Norwich, he immediately stepped into that important role of someone who can make things happen, and was unlucky not to score the winner at the end. That’s the quality of player we are talking about.”
The man Rodallega replaced against Norwich, Franco di Santo (inset), is also short of full fitness after suffering an ankle problem during pre-season, although the Argentine’s 50-minute cameo showed his value to the team.
“I felt it was Franco’s best performance for Wigan Athletic so far,” Martinez acknowledged.
“He worked with real intensity, he was a real threat, he won us one penalty and should have had another, he had a couple of great headers and his movement was incisive.
“The only thing with Franco is making sure his fitness levels are up to a level that ensure he can go for 90 minutes.
“He had a little knock to his ankle when we were over in Austria, and he’s not been able to play more than 45 minutes since.
“With the intensity Franco plays the game, in that heat and humidity it was too much of a risk to push him any more.
“But it’s the quality of play I’m after, not quantity, and I was extremely pleased with what we saw from him on the pitch.”
Antolin Alcaraz is also pushing for a return against Swansea, having had even less of a pre-season than Rodallega after Paraguay’s run to the final of the Copa America.