Wigan are linking up with Benfica to take a number of their youth players on loan. Yes, you read that right, Wigan and Benfica in partnership. This could be a masterstroke or a nightmare, as a Wigan fan, I hope it’s a masterstroke.
The Latics used the loan market perfectly last season, with Christian Walton (Brighton), Antonee Robinson (Everton) and Reece James (Chelsea) all playing pivotal roles, in a season we finished a positive 18th.
This apparent Benfica link has come about as a complete surprise to everyone. We were expecting a few Chelsea players to arrive on loan, because of the brilliant work we did with James last season. However, this is Wigan, we never do anything the easy way.
So, time to pretend I know everything about Benfica B, who could we potentially poach…
Ivan Saponjic – A Cook type striker
With Leon Clarke returning to newly-promoted Sheffield United, Wigan are left with just two striker options, Joe Garner and Callum Lang. I expect Paul Cook to stick with his trusty 4-2-3-1 formation next season, and also sign a new striker.
We predominantly play with three quick, tricky attacking midfielders, however, most fans felt we never had that goal-scoring target man last season to benefit from them. Maybe 6ft4 Ivan Saponjic can be the answer to all of our problems. The striker has featured for Serbia at youth level and looks the ideal replacement for Clarke, style-wise anyway.
Chris Willock – a Nick Powell replacement?
This is an interesting one. Born in London, Willock joined Arsenal’s academy when he was five years old. He, then aged 16, appeared for the Arsenal first team in a pre-season friendly in 2014 when Arsène Wenger described him as a “very interesting player”.
After not receiving an opportunity in the first-team, Willock opted to sign a five-year contract at Portuguese champions Benfica. Judging from a three-minute video on Youtube, he is the next Lionel Messi – that’s why he’ll sign for Wigan. In all seriousness, he looks very quick, with a good final ball and is super confident. Cook will be desperately looking for a player to replace Powell, and perhaps Willock is the man he’s targeting.