Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said defender Adrian Lopez could make a big impact on the 2012-13 Premier League season.
Lopez joined the Lancashire outfit from Deportivo La Coruna at the end of 2010 on a short-term deal, and saw his stay extended after impressing in the early stages of his career in the North West.
The centre-half opened the 2011-12 campaign in the starting line-up but gradually fell down the pecking order after Paraguaya international Antolin Alcaraz regained full fitness.
However, he returned for the Latics’ final day victory over Wolves, and Martinez – who looks set to stay as the club’s manager after Liverpool opted to appoint Brendan Rodgers – thinks Lopez can put himself in contention for a first-team spot.
He told the Wigan Evening Post: “I do expect him to challenge the more established players next season.
“He is still a very young man, but he has great experience from playing for Deportivo in La Liga. And we are all hoping he will continue to develop over the summer.”
Lopez was brought to the DW Stadium as a free agent and Martinez feels that the club have unearthed a gem in the 25-year-old.
He added: “Adrian is a very quick defender with outstanding distribution and is good in the air – he has everything.
“We will do our best this summer to help him with a structured training programme, and I see him really challenging next season.”