Stage is set for Hot Rod

Hugo Rodallega celebrates a goal last season
Hugo Rodallega celebrates a goal last season

LATICS supporters always knew that keeping hold of Hugo Rodallega would be one of their major accomplishments of this transfer window.

The Colombian has been a revelation since at arriving at Latics in January 2009, and has been linked with several Premier League clubs over the summer including Liverpool and Arsenal.

Many pundits and fans alike were initially asking ‘Hugo Who?’ when Steve Bruce shelled out £4.5million to Mexican outfit Necaxa for his services 18 months ago.

Having bagged almost a goal-a-game for his first club, Deportes Quindio, he also received rave reviews at Deportivo Cali before earning his move to Necaxa.

Rodallega took the move in his stride as well and positively thrived on a platform that allowed him to register on Wigan’s radar.

After a slowish start in England, Rodallega sprung to life with three goals in the final four matches of his debut campaign.

And he carried his good form into last term, with six goals by the end of November – and Wigan winning all five matches in which he scored.

Despite being switched to the left-hand side part-way through the campaign, Rodallega remained Wigan’s main goal threat and finished top scorer with 11 goals.

A few Latics fans were initially puzzled by the switch from the centre to the wing.

But Roberto Martinez feels the move will enable the 25-year-old to become a more complete player – which will benefit all parties.

He told the Evening Post: “Hugo has been playing out wide on the left all pre-season because it’s the only way he will learn how to do it.

“And I want him to master that position as much as he has mastered playing on his own through the middle.

“He has played up front since he was a kid and so he understands the game completely.

“Out wide, there are aspects of the game he is still learning and he will be a real threat when he does learn it completely.”

And it seems Martinez is not the only manager one who believes Rodallega’s use to the team is down the middle.

“I saw him play out wide for Colombia and I know he can adapt to that position,” Martinez added.

“He really enjoys playing out there and I feel he will be a real threat for us this season.”

There is no doubt Latics were a little over-reliant on Rodallega for goals last term, with Jason Scotland and Marcelo Moreno managing just a solitary league goal between them.

Hopefully, that problem will have been solved with the summer signing of Argentinian striker Mauro Boselli from Estudiantes.

And Martinez admits he cannot wait to unleash his South American pair on unsuspecting defences this term.

“Mauro has been working really well and already looks like he owns the place,” the Wigan boss said.

“He is a great personality, a great character and I’m sure the fans will appreciate his work rate and his obvious talents in front of goal.

“I am so excited about the future because I really feel we have got a future Argentinian regular on our hands.

“I think his partnership with Hugo is going to be electric.

“Teams that play against you always try to nullify your threat.

“But when you have more than one attacking points, and players who are capable of changing their position, it can only help you.

“That’s why it’s so important that Hugo masters both positions – to allow him to go to the next level as a player.”

The problem with that, of course, is that if and when Rodallega gets to the next level, it would arguably hamper Wigan’s chances of holding on to him long-term.

With just over a fortnight to go before the end of August, it looks like Latics have managed to keep the wolves from the door for another transfer window.

And it says much for Rodallega’s influence that he has even been mentioned as a possible skipper following the exit of Mario Melchiot and the sale of Titus Bramble.

Although Gary Caldwell looks favourite for the role, Martinez admits he has not yet made up his mind.

“It has to be a figure respected by the group and a leader,” added Martinez.

Few would argue Rodallega fulfills both criteria.