Paul Cook believes Wigan Athletic have landed one of the best young players outside the Premier League after shelling out big money for Peterborough starlet Leonardo Da Silva Lopes.
And the Latics boss has backed the 19-year-old to take the Championship by storm and underline why a number of top-flight clubs had been closely monitoring his progress.
“Leo has been one of the best young players in the EFL over the past couple of seasons,” recognised Cook.
“And this is a really strong addition to our squad.
“I am looking forward to working with Leo and believe he will embrace the challenge of Championship football here at Wigan Athletic.
“Everyone has to remember Leo is just 19 and has his best years ahead of him, but he certainly has the foundations to become a top-level player.”
The signing is Wigan’s second of the summer already, hot on the heels of the capture of Portsmouth’s utility forward Kal Naismith on a free transfer.
While sources at Peterborough initially claimed the deal was over £1million, the Wigan Post understands the fee wasn’t as high as seven figures.
But Cook says the club will reap the rewards of getting Da Silva Lopes on board well before the start of pre-season at the end of the month.
“Thanks to the chairman for his work in getting this deal completed so early in the window, which will give Leo the chance to come in and work with us straight away in pre-season,” the Latics manager acknowledged.
Da Silva Lopes, who has already been welcomed into the Portugal Under-21 set-up, has signed a four-year deal at the DW Stadium.
After bursting on to the scene at the age of 16, he went on to make 108 appearances in all competitions for the Posh during his time at the ABAX Stadium, including 52 last season – although his last goals came with a brace against Bristol Rovers back in April 2017.
“This is a really exciting acquisition for us,” acknowledged Latics chairman David Sharpe.
“And I’d like to place on record my thanks to Darragh MacAnthony and Barry Fry at Peterborough for their respective parts in this deal.”
Posh chief MacAnthony reacted to the announcement yesterday with several tweets backing the youngster to realise his potential with Latics.
And while disappointed to lose him, MacAnthony firmly believes the player is on the way to the very top.
“I first spotted Leo at 15 when he came on winter break trip to Spain with the first team and could tell instantly this kid was destined to play top-level football,” said MacAnthony.
“After playing over 100 games by the age of 19, I am delighted he will get to display his talents in the Championship next season.
“I have no doubt Wigan fans will get behind him, support him and play a part in helping his development as he goes on to show us all at Peterborough what a talented kid he really is.
“I wish him and his family all the best. Go get ‘em Leo!”