IN a season of ups and downs for Latics so far, Momo Diame has undoubtedly been one of the star turns.
So it’s not in the least bit surprising to hear that the big man will be sorely missed now that he has jetted off to the African Nations Cup competition in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea for what could be as long as seven weeks.
A pivotal member of Senegal’s squad, Diame could be out of Latics action right the way until the home game with Aston Villa in the last week of February – a sobering thought given his hugely impressive form of late.
That would mean him missing the games against Manchester City on Monday, QPR, Spurs, Everton and Bolton – crucial clashes as Latics try to dig their way out of trouble down towards the bottom of the Premier League table.
Putting club concerns to one side, though, Latics boss Roberto Martinez is looking forward to seeing Diame – who was born in France but pledged allegiance to Senegal, the birthplace of his parents, last season – strutting his stuff on the big stage.
And he believes Diame will not look out of place pitting his wits against the cream of the continent.
“Of course we will miss Momo – he has been one of our most consistent performers this season,” Martinez admitted.
“But the opportunity for a player to represent his country in such a prestigious competition does not come around every day.
“And we are all looking forward to seeing Momo competing against the best players in Africa and some of the best players in the world.
“We at Wigan Athletic have been aware for some time of the qualities Momo has, a this tournament will be a chance for him to show the world what a great talent he is. I have no doubts whatsoever that he belongs at that level, and he will be a key player for a country I know he has huge feeling and passion for.”
With Diame out of contract at the end of the season and showing little signs of committing his future to Wigan, Martinez is well aware that a good tournament could alert rival clubs to both his talent and his availability.
The Spaniard, though, is viewing the situation a little more pragmatically.
“Yes, I suppose it would be better for Wigan Athletic if he were to have a quiet tournament and for Senegal to lose all of their games,” Martinez said.
“But Momo has worked extremely hard for his chance to play in a major tournament, and we all want him to take that chance with both hands.
“I’m not concerned at all that other clubs will be watching him play. And I am still hopeful that Momo will see that his future lies with us.”
The “Lions of Teranga” kick off their campaign against Zambia on Saturday week (January 21), before taking on hosts Equatorial Guinea the following Wednesday (January 25) and Libya the Sunday after (January 29).