Liverpool were given permission by Wigan Athletic on Thursday to talk to coach Roberto Martinez about becoming the next manager at Anfield, a day after Kenny Dalglish was sacked.
“He’s going there with an open mind,” Wigan chairman Dave Whelan told Sky Sports News. “We would love to keep Roberto, he’s a great manager, but there are two or three clubs looking for a new manager and Roberto is on the list for all of them. If Liverpool are serious, then we may lose him.”
The 38-year-old Martinez left Swansea City to take over at Wigan in 2009 and has been widely praised for keeping the modest Lancashire club in the Premier League.
Wigan stayed in the top flight this season after wins over Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle United in their final eight games helped them to a respectable 15th in the league.
“When Liverpool phoned me I was actually with Roberto having a meeting on what we are doing next season,” Whelan said. “I did promise Roberto and I have always said when a big club comes he would have permission to talk to them, and they don’t come any bigger than Liverpool.”
Dalglish, who had returned for a second stint as manager at Anfield in January last year, paid the price for a dismal season that saw Liverpool finish 37 points behind champions Manchester City.
The Merseyside club’s US owners, Fenway Sports Group, had given Dalglish more than ￡100 million (US$159 million) to spend in the transfer market since he took over, but expensive signings such as Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson largely flopped and Liverpool’s eighth-place finish was their worst season-ending position for nearly two decades, with their lowest points tally since 1954.
They defeated Cardiff City in the League Cup final, but lost 2-1 to Chelsea in the FA Cup final earlier this month.
Dalglish voiced his gratitude to fans for their show of support following his dismissal.
In a message on Twitter, he wrote: “Overwhelmed by the support of the fans. Always been special, but even more so now. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. YNWA [You’ll Never Walk Alone] and I never have.”
Earlier on Thursday, the 61-year-old told the Liverpool Echo that fans needed to show support to the club’s owners.
“Liverpool is still a great football club, still a club that should believe in whoever is going to come in after myself,” Dalglish told the Echo. “The supporters, not just for myself, but for everyone else, have always been fantastically supportive of the team and that should not change.”