WIGAN Athletic may well already have made their first major signing of the summer.
Adrian Lopez has already been at the DW Stadium for 18 months after joining from Deportivo La Coruna midway through the 2010-11 campaign.
After starting last term in the starting XI thanks to Antolin Alcaraz’s absence, the Spaniard soon slipped back down the pecking order.
But an impressive show in the final game of last term against Wolves showed he is very much still on the scene.
And Roberto Martinez expects his compatriot to make a real challenge for a first-team spot next term. “I do expect him to challenge the more established players next season,” said Martinez, who is making plans for next season now the speculation over his own future has receded.
“He is still a very young man, but he has great experience from playing for Deportivo in La Liga. And we are all hoping he will continue to develop over the summer.” Little was known of Lopez when he arrived at Wigan in the summer of 2010 after his contract with Deportivo had expired. There was a period of limbo while the Spanish club tried to prove he was still under contract, but the centre-back was granted ‘free agent’ status which allowed him to join Wigan.
And Martinez is confident his faith in the player’s ability will be proved correct in the years ahead.
“Adrian is a very quick defender with outstanding distribution and is good in the air – he has everything,” added Martinez. “We will do our best this summer to help him with a structured training programme, and I see him really challenging next season.”
Lopez barely put a foot wrong alongside Gary Caldwell and Maynor Figueroa against Wolves, his only blemish being an attempt to play the ball out of defence that was punished by Steven Fletcher.
Martinez, though, was quick to absolve the 25-year-old of any individual blame.
“The last goal was unfortunate, but I have always tried to encourage the centre-backs to play from the back and I take full responsibility for what happened,” he said.
“Overall, though, I was very pleased with the way Adrian played at very short notice, with Antolin (Alcaraz) dropping out just before the game.
“You have to remember that for six or seven months he has been waiting for his chance and I thought he was terrific.
“It could have been daunting for him to have come in from the cold but he coped well with the pace of the game and the challenges of facing Kevin Doyle and Matt Jarvis.”