Roger Espinoza could make his Wigan debut as early as Saturday after the English Premier League club announced on Friday that the deal to land the former Sporting Kansas City midfielder was complete with the acquisition of his UK work permit.
The 26-year Ohio State alum is now eligible to play in Wigan’s third-round FA Cup matchup against AFC Bournemouth after signing a two-and-a-half year deal with the club. Wigan, who currently sit 18th in the EPL table, return to league action on Jan. 12 at Fulham.
“I am just so happy to finally be here,” Espinoza told the club’s website. “It’s taken a while to get all the paper work done but now I can concentrate on fighting for my place and helping the team.
“I just want to say a big thank you to everyone at the club who have been working so hard to get everything through in time, and for the manager to have the belief in me. Now it’s down to business.”
The announcement brings to a close the lengthy process that ended Espinoza’s five-year career in Kansas City, which saw him evolve from a first-round pick in the MLS SuperDraft in 2008 to one of the premier ball-winning midfielders in the league. He started at least 24 games in each of the past three seasons for Sporting KC, who leaned on him heavily to provide some of the muscle behind the team’s two-straight playoff appearances as the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.
Espinoza also won a US Open Cup title with the club in 2012.
"I want to thank the teammates and the coaching staff," Espinoza said in a statement. "The reason I am moving to the Premier League is because of them. They gave me the opportunity to become a better player.
"I would also like to thank the fans for everything they've done for the club and for me over the years,” he added. “They were there for every game supporting us. I grew up as a player here and to me, they are the best fans in the league. I know another championship is coming very soon for Sporting Kansas City.”
Espinoza has also emerged as a regular in the Honduran national team pool, and most recently starred for Los Catrachos during the London Olympics, when he turned more than a few heads with his performances against some of the top young talent in the world.
“He is an excellent talent and every time we have seen him play he has shown the desire that as a club we like to see from our players,” Wigan manager Roberto Martinez told the club website. “The Olympics in the summer gave a great example of just what he can do on the pitch, especially in his performances against Spain and Brazil.
“He’ll bring something new to the group and we hope to have many happy memories of him playing for Latics.”
Espinoza flew in to Wigan on Thursday after securing a visa for the UK in New York earlier this week and is likely to make his debut this weekend, according to Martinez. His contract with Sporting ended January 1.
“Usually players would have more time preparing for their debut and getting used to their new teammates,” Martinez told the club’s website, “but Roger is so desperate to play as soon as he can that we hope to see him on the pitch on Saturday.”