ALL eyes were on Charles N’Zogbia – not for the first time – as Wigan Athletic’s players prepared for the first day of pre-season training today.
The Frenchman has been the subject of feverish transfer speculation since the final whistle blew on last season just 46 days ago, with Aston Villa thought to be winning the race for his signature.
With Villa virtually resigned to losing Stewart Downing to Liverpool – just days after Ashley Young’s transfer to Manchester United – new boss Alex McLeish is on the lookout for quality wing reinforcements ahead of the new campaign.
McLeish, of course, almost lured N’Zogbia to Birmingham last summer, with the deal falling through at the last minute over personal terms, after a £9million fee had been agreed.
Villa will have to move fast, with N’Zogbia scheduled to jet out on Monday with the rest of the Wigan squad for the annual pre-season trip to Sweden.
But, in the absence of any firm offer from Villa or any of the other clubs chasing the winger – thought to include Newcastle, Sunderland and Liverpool – N’Zogbia was expected back this morning for the day most professional footballers dread the most.
The only players excused duty were Hugo Rodallega, Antolin Alcaraz – both currently away at the Copa America – and Hendry Thomas, who represented Honduras with such distinction at the recent Gold Cup in America.
Maynor Figueroa was due back with the others, as was Mauro Boselli, whose future remains unclear after spending the second half of last season on loan at Italian side Genoa.
Despite reported interest from a number of clubs, including Nice and his former club Estudiantes, Latics have yet to receive a serious bid for the striker who cost £6million last summer.
And, until that changes, he will resume with a clean slate, along with the rest of his colleagues.
Roberto Martinez will be parading one new signing at Christopher Park, but Ali Al Habsi will hardly need introducing to his colleagues after his sterling efforts last term, while on loan from Bolton.
Al Habsi was the first of what is expected to be a busy summer of recruitment for the Wigan boss, who will also have to replace another departed loan star, Tom Cleverley, before he even thinks about bulking up the pool of players that escaped the drop on the last day of last term.
Martinez admits he has one or two irons in the fire with regards possible incomings, although he is prepared to play a waiting game for now.
“Looking at what happened last season, when one or two deals kicked off the whole market, I expect the same thing to happen again,” he told the Evening Post.
“Usually there are a few big deals, then it goes quiet, then it starts again in the last week of the window, and it looks like that will be the case this summer as well.”