Wigan Athletic are bracing themselves for a future without Nick Powell as Championship rivals Stoke City close in on a deal to take him to the Potteries.
The 25-year-old is out of contract this summer, having completed the three-year deal he signed after leaving Manchester United in the summer of 2016.
And despite Latics tabling an improved bid earlier this month in a desperate bid to try to keep him at the DW Stadium, it looks as though the greater sums on offer elsewhere will win the day.
Sources in Staffordshire say Stoke are increasingly confident of landing the player, who hails from nearby Crewe, and who inspired a 3-0 Latics win at the bet365 Stadium last August.
With no transfer fee required, Stoke – with the added luxury of parachute payments from the Premier League – are able to push the boat out far beyond Wigan’s means.
And although the player has always been happy and settled here, it’s expected he’ll move on to pastures new.
Powell’s happiness at Wigan was such he turned down a move to Premier League Brighton in January 2018, which would have seen Latics make a profit of around £6million.
He guided Latics to the League One title last season, and his eight goals this term – which saw him top the scoring charts alongside Joe Garner – helped them hang on to their second-tier status.
But the loss of such a key player without recompense will be a huge blow to Latics in the post-Whelan era.
It remains to be seen how much new owners IEC are prepared to commit to Paul Cook’s budget.
They’ve already confirmed they won’t be ‘throwing money at it’, relying instead on astute player trading and the club’s blossoming academy programme.
Latics have yet to release their retained list, which will give an indication on which other out-of-contract players will be staying or going.
Shaun MacDonald is set to leave the club after three years, while it remains to be seen whether Callum McManaman and Darron Gibson have done enough to warrant new contract offers.