Roberto Martinez set for big call after guiding underdogs Wigan to FA Cup glory
Man City 0 Wigan Athletic 1
Published 13/05/2013 | 04:20
Roberto Martinez enabled his players to answer every test Manchester City posed them on Saturday, but the big question still hung in the air as Wigan's jubilant players left Wembley: is the FA Cup his parting gift, or a stepping stone to greater things with the club?
Unsurprisingly, given the emotion of the moment, the Wigan manager offered mixed messages. In one breath he talked of next season's Europa League challenge, and of kicking on to become a top 10 team; in the next he uttered phrases such as "whoever the manager of the club might be, because nobody is here for ever".
Everton have identified Martinez as a potential successor to David Moyes and Saturday's triumph will narrow their aim. It adds gloss to an already impressive body of work at Swansea and Wigan, two clubs where he has delivered on limited resources – as necessary a requirement at Goodison as at the DW.
Dave Whelan, Martinez's boss and, often, father figure, accepts the time will come when his manager asks to leave, but does not believe that day will arrive this summer.
"Whenever he wants to go I'll release him immediately, but he'll only go to a big, big club and I don't think Everton are big enough," said Whelan on the back of Ben Watson's (right) dramatic last minute Cup final winning goal against favourites City.
"It's Roberto's decision. If he comes to me and says, 'I want to go to whichever club', I'll say 'OK' and release him because we have such a great working relationship.
"The lad's so honest. I don't think he'll go this season, but if he does I'll shake his hand and wish him good luck."
The unknown factor is how relegation – or, more unlikely, survival – will affect Martinez's thinking. If Wigan go down, will he feel he should stay to help them back up, or does he put his own career first? As Owen Coyle could tell him, a rising manager's star can wane. If Wigan stay up, does Martinez stay to build on this season, or decide he can walk away with his head high?
When quizzed on his next challenge, Martinez responded: "The next two games", referring to tomorrow's league match at Arsenal and Sunday's at home to Aston Villa.
"I like to build football clubs, to do things over the long term. It would be very deflating for me if we don't stay for a ninth season in the Premier League," he said.
"It's not about my future. It is the football club I care about. When I arrived at Wigan, the next step was European football. We have achieved absolutely everything. Whoever the manager of the club might be the aim is to take the club to the next level."
If Martinez moves on Wigan can take heart from Swansea's progress since he left them. Both Brendan Rodgers and Michel Laudrup built on the framework Martinez established.
Having turned down Aston Villa and Liverpool, Martinez may reject Everton; but the Toffees are in better shape than Villa and, unlike Liverpool, Everton's owner, Bill Kenwright, would grant him the same freedom to manage as Whelan has.