Real Madrid '˜close in on Wigan Athletic legend' Roberto Martinez

Roberto MartinezRoberto Martinez
Roberto Martinez
Wigan Athletic legend Roberto Martinez is now a sensational front-runner for the vacant Real Madrid manager's job.

The 45-year-old Spaniard, who played for Latics between 1995 and 2001 before steering them to FA Cup glory in 2013, managed Belgium to a third-place finish at this year’s World Cup.

And despite having almost two years remaining on his contract with the Belgian FA, he is understood to be very highly-rated by members of the Madrid hierarchy.

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The reigning European champions are seeking a successor for Julen Lopetegui, whose four-month reign came to an end earlier this week following the 5-1 thrashing by Barcelona in El Clasico.

Former Chelsea and Juventus boss Antonio Conte was the initial favourite for the post, but reports in Spain have claimed key figures within the Madrid dressing room are opposed to the Italian and his methods.

As a result, Martinez has now rocketed in to 7/2 for the job, just behind former Real star Santiago Solari, who has taken over temporary charge.

Mauricio Pochettino remains the slender favourite at 5/2 but, with Tottenham likely to fight any attempt to prise away their highly-rated young boss, Martinez may be a more realistic option.

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It’s also unlikely Belgium would be receptive to any move for their own leader, especially after the recent departures of Thierry Henry and Latics legend Graeme Jones from the backroom staff.

But the lure of managing back in his homeland - and arguably the biggest club in the world - could be too much for Martinez to ignore.

His potential arrival would also increase the speculation surrounding Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard, around whom Martinez has built the Belgium team, and a long-term transfer target for Real.