It didn’t come as a surprise given the international attention and acclaim Roger Espinoza received during a star turn with the Honduras Olympic team last summer in London, but word officially came down Monday that the Sporting Kansas City midfielder was headed back to England.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
“He called and told me that he’s basically decided that he’s going to go to Wigan,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “It was a tough decision for him, but it’s something that he wanted to do. He wanted a chance to play in the English Premier League, but he also wanted to thank me and the club for everything.”
Rumors of Wigan’s interest have been circulating for months.
There was substantial chatter that the English Premier League side tried to make a move during the August transfer window, but by waiting until the winter transfer window, which opens Jan. 1, Wigan can acquire Espinoza on a free transfer.
Honduran news outlet, Diez, and Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl were the first to tweet Monday afternoon that Espinoza was headed to Wigan on Wednesday for a physical.
Assuming Espinoza passes that, the hurdle of securing a work permit – not always a certainty given the vagaries of British immigration – remains, but odds are he’ll suit up Wigan Athletic beginning in 2013.
“I told him I really appreciated his commitment to the club,” Vermes said. “He’s been a great guy on and off the field for us for several years. His growth as a player has been tremendous. I told him we’re happy for him, but that the doors are open if things change in the future.”
Sporting KC made “a very generous offer” to Espinoza, Vermes said, giving the club the right of first refusal should the Ohio State graduate, who grew up in the Denver suburbs, ever return to MLS.
After the season, Espinoza confirmed interest from other European teams. Additional reports indicated Espinoza had been contacted by other Premier League teams, Newcastle and Everton, as well as teams from Germany’s Bundesliga and Mexico.
With Espinoza’s departure, Sporting KC has five midfielders on its roster, including Graham Zusi and Paulo Nagamura.
Veteran Michael Thomas, a St. Thomas Aquinas graduate, also remains, while club officials gush about the bright futures for Oriol Rosell and Peterson Joseph.