STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MAY 22: Manager Roberto Martinez celebrateS after winning 1-0 to keep them in the Premiere League during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Wigan Athletic at Britannia Stadium on May 22, 2011 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
According to Mat Kendrick of the Birmingham Mail, yes. While Kendrick is as trustworthy a source for Aston Villa news as there is, it's important to keep in mind that this is still very much just a rumor. Kendrick has been right far more often than he's been wrong and it's difficult to believe that there's not something to this if he's comfortable using such strong language, but Villa have come so far out of left field so often these past few years that no one should believe a thing until the club makes an official announcement.
My admiration for Martinez is no secret. I have been outspoken in my desire to see the club make an approach in the wake of the departure of both Gerard Houllier and Martin O'Neill. Truth be told, even when MON was still in charge and everything was hunky-dory, I had a bit of a manager-crush on Martinez. His teams play very attractive, flowing, attacking football, but he certainly knows when they need to scrap. He's shown an ability to work under tight financial constraints, and while Villa are certainly more financially muscular than Wigan they've still got a bit of a bloated wage bill. There are some who are concerned that Martinez was never able to guide Wigan above the bottom third of the table in his time with the club, but in my estimation the fact that he's managed to keep Wigan up at all is a minor miracle. Yes, Charles N'Zogbia and Hugo Rodallega are solid young Premier League players. Gary Caldwell is a solid defender and Maynor Figueroa would have been an upgrade at left back for Villa for a not insignificant portion of the season. On talent alone, Wigan just aren't a Premier League side and that Martinez has managed to keep them in the top flight these past two years while being forced to slash wages and still managing to play attractive football is no small feat.
But for me, it goes beyond that. Aston Villa have a lot of promising young talent, some solid early-prime veterans at important spots and a world class striker around which to build. They have a billionaire owner that has not been shy about investing a great deal of money in the club. Randy Lerner's stated goal has always been Champions League football for Villa, and though he's not going to allow the club to become a money pit he's also willing to back up that desire with the funds necessary to do so. Martin O'Neill got us close, but he chose to leave the club when Lerner wouldn't allow him to waste any further resources on the Habib Beye's of the world. Gerard Houllier was never the ideal choice, and though I think he got a raw deal in his time with the club I'll be honest in saying that had the circumstances been different he would have likely never been appointed. He was never going to be a long-term solution.
Roberto Martinez can be. All great managers were once up-and-comers. Villa aren't the kind of club that is going to attract the very top class of manager in the world, but they're easily the kind of club that can help develop a manager into a member of that class. A manager like Roberto Martinez can build a legacy at Villa. The same can't be said for the Carlo Ancelotti's or Rafa Benitez's of the world. Is there risk in such an appointment? Not as much as some might have you believe, but yes. Of course there's a certain amount of risk. There always is. But sometimes you have to take a risk before you can truly take a step forward. Besides, the biggest knock on Houllier's appointment was originally that he was the safe choice; how'd that work out for everyone?
I see a manager like Roberto Martinez, and I dream about what he can accomplish with Villa's resources available to him. And it makes me giddy. We all know about the Proud History. Roberto Martinez can be the Bright Future.