Maynor Figueroa's Wonder Goal Puts Wigan's Bargain Buys In the Spotlight

Alex StampCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2009

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 12:  Maynor Figueroa of Wigan celebrates scoring a long range goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Wigan Athletic at the Britannia Stadium on December 12, 2009 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

After Maynor Figueroa's 60-yard wonder goal on Saturday, the question should be asked. Has the Premier League ever seen such a strike come from such an unheralded source in its long and distinguished history?

David Beckham and Xabi Alonso's wonder strikes against Wimbledon and Newcastle respectively were each in their own right excellent goals. But Maynor Figueroa's strike was, at the very least, equally spectacular.

But while we expect such feats from two of the finest strikers of a ball the league has ever seen, there was little evidence that Figueroa had such an ability.

And just like Beckham's strike before him, Figueroa's strike has set Premier League rumour mongers and gossip columnists into frenzied excitement. Not that the Honduran left back's manager, Roberto Martinez, has helped matters.

In his post-match interview he remarked: “We know that we will not be able to keep him forever because the reality is he is slowly fulfilling his potential, and his potential should be to go to the top of the top.

"He's got the World Cup in front of him so I don't think changes would be a good decision before such a big event in his career. He'll probably go next summer but until then we will go on enjoying his defending and his magical goals.”

In truth, the goal itself was one of rare quality and power-leaving both teammates and opponents agog with awe. Paul Scharner, Figueroa's teammate, said: "If you score a goal like that, you have to pat him on the back.”

While the beaten keeper, a bemused Thomas Sorensen, said: “Obviously it is never great to be beaten from that distance, but you have to credit his awareness and his strike was unbelievable.” 

Yet the goal merely drew attention to a player who has inconspicuously emerged as one of the finest left-back's in the country. Had Figueroa been up against Aaron Lennon rather than Erik Edman then it is hard to imagine the winger would have enjoyed the freedom of the White Hart Lane pitch during that 9-1 thrashing.

But despite his seamless adaption to life in the Premier League, it is easily forgotten that the Honduran was signed for what is believed to be a relatively small, undisclosed fee. At a time when defenders can easily cost as much as attacking players, and when full backs especially are becoming more important to modern day football teams, this is, in whichever vernacular you choose, a snip.

Yet he is not alone in that regard at the DW Stadium. One of the hallmarks of Roberto Martinez's team, and Steve Bruce's before it, was the cosmopolitan nature of its members who were often snapped up from all areas of the globe for, often, relatively small fees. When Dave Whelan took aim of Bruce's “dodgy signings”, his remarks seemed to overlook the number of bargains he brought to Wigan.

Figueroa was of course one of them, yet he was no mere exception. Perhaps the most eye-catching one before that was Luis Antonio Valencia. Granted, he was signed from Spanish giants Villarreal but it was Wigan who took a chance on him—signing him on loan first, before signing him on an undisclosed fee.

In his time at the then JJB stadium, Valencia made his name as one of the finest wingers in the league, before completing a £16 million move to Manchester United where he now features with regularity.

Then there is Wilson Palacios, now of Tottenham Hotspur, who Steve Bruce signed on recommendation from Arsene Wenger. The Honduran international has since gone on to establish himself as one of the finest central midfielders in the league, and at a sale value of £14 million, he was a profitable bargain at that for Wigan.

But there are others who remain at the DW Stadium. Perhaps most prominent among them is Hugo Rodallega, another relative unknown who arrived at the club as Bruce's replacement for Emile Heskey, and has since proved to be a capable, skilful goalscorer, and a crucial part of Martinez's forward line.

Yet even then, you could point to the work of Roberto Martinez who has clearly inherited some of his predecessor's prudent financial sensibility, and keen eye for a bargain.

The names of Hendry Thomas and Mohamed Diame may not yet be household Premier League names yet, but given time they have shown enough in their short time in English football to have the ability to thrive.

Both are tall, athletic players with the technical ability to adhere to the Roberto Martinez philosophy of short passing, attractive football. Thomas, a 24-year-old Honduran international who plays very much in the mould of his international compatriot Wilson Palacios.

Meanwhile Mohamed Diame, a 22-year old French midfielder signed from Rayo Vallecano, is very much cut from the same cloth. A tall, dominating midfielder who provides the side with plenty of muscle in midfield, at £3.8 million he looks a snip. Clearly Wigan's conveyor belt of footballing bargain buys shows no sign of slowing down.

And in an era when the footballing landscape has contracted so that now every would-be superstar from all corners of the globe can be seen easily either on television or the Internet, Wigan has managed to prove that footballing gems are still there to be found.

Figueroa's wonder strike at the very least is testament to that.


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