KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If Roger Espinoza is headed to the English Premier League before the end of the MLS season, it’s news to both him and his club.
Then again, it’s the last few days of Europe’s “silly season” and anything can happen.
The Daily Mirror, a British tabloid, reported earlier this week that Wigan Athletic were in pursuit of the Honduran midfielder, who has been a mainstay for his club over the last two seasons and starred for his country at the London Olympics this summer.
And then on Tuesday, Espinoza's agent confirmed to MLSsoccer.com that the English Premier League club is interested in Espinoza.
"At this point, he's in no rush," Mike Gartlan told MLSsoccer.com. "There's definite interest and talks going on. But as of now, Roger is with KC and is happy to play for them until that changes."
On Wednesday, Espinoza and manager Peter Vermes each said there had been no formal offer for Espinoza’s services.
“What I can tell you,” Vermes said at Wednesday’s weekly news conference, “is that nobody has contacted Sporting Kansas City and nobody has contacted the league. So I don’t know what to tell you.”
After the morning training session, Espinoza said his focus is on Saturday’s home match against Toronto FC and on helping Sporting contend for their first Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup since 2000.
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“I’m practicing right now,” he said with a laugh. “Obviously, if I’d gotten a call, I’d be home right now. I’d be drinking wine with my family. Anything can happen, but I’m here and I’m happy.”
Espinoza also stressed that while he’d love to play in one of the world’s top leagues, he isn’t actively looking to make a move away from Livestrong Sporting Park.
“I know everything that guy wants,” he said, pointing at Vermes across the practice pitch. “On the field, I know everything he wants. I know everybody here. I know everything about the city. I like the city.”
That hasn’t stopped Sporting’s supporters from worrying that Wigan will buy Espinoza before England’s transfer window closes on Friday – fears that team president Robb Heineman tried to allay via social media.
“U have my word we will do everything we can to keep Roger here and happy,” Heineman tweeted late Tuesday night.
So what will it take to retain Espinoza, whose contract runs out at the end of the year?
A raise, for one thing.
“Money’s important,” he said. “It’s not the most important thing in life, but it does help.”
That’s not the only factor Espinoza would have to consider, though.
“My family’s close here,” he said. “I live with my girlfriend here. I grew up in the United States. But it’s the English Premier League. If you could be a newspaper writer covering the English Premier League, I’m sure you’d want to go there, too.”
Sporting have all three of their Designated Player slots open, which could be one way of hanging on to Espinoza beyond this season.
“I believe I deserve that, just like many guys on the team,” he said. “It’s too bad that that’s the way it goes in the league, that three guys should be the ones making all the money. We have a lot of great players. But I’ve been working very hard. So if you tell me that I deserve DP money? Yeah, I’d take it.”
— Additional reporting from Greg Seltzer