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The Reds' owners made contact with the Spaniard through third parties last week and he is hot favourite to take over as manager, with Andre Villas-Boas the other major candidate

EXCLUSIVE
By Greg Stobart and Wayne Veysey

Liverpool have lined up Roberto Martinez to replace Kenny Dalglish as the club’s new manager, Goal.com understands.

Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the Reds’ American owners, made contact with Wigan boss Martinez last week through third parties and sources have described the Spaniard hot favourite to take over at Anfield after Dalglish was sacked on Wednesday.

As revealed by Goal.com in April, Martinez has already decided to leave Wigan this summer and Liverpool are now expected to make a formal approach for the 38-year-old, who is also on Aston Villa’s shortlist to replace Alex McLeish.

Former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas is also under consideration as John W Henry, Liverpool’s principal owner, targets a younger and more progressive manager to mount a challenge for a top-four finish next season.

Martinez guided the Latics to safety in the Premier League this season following a stunning run of form towards the end of the campaign that included victories over Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle.

He has been continually tipped by Wigan owner Dave Whelan to manage at the highest level and feels ready to make the next step in his career after turning down the opportunity to take over at Aston Villa a year ago.

Villas-Boas was sacked by Chelsea in March but still has a reputation as one of the most promising managers in Europe and is the leading candidate for the vacant managerial position at Italian side Roma.

But Martinez is in pole position to land one of the most prestigious jobs in English football after Liverpool legend Dalglish was dismissed on Wednesday as he faced the consequences for the club’s poor performances in the league this season.

The Scot met the owners in Boston earlier this week but could not save his job after 18 months back at the helm, with FSG particularly frustrated with Liverpool’s failure in the transfer market having spent £110 million on new players. It is believed Henry and chairman Tom Werner had been leaning towards sacking Dalglish for several weeks and have been considering potential replacements.

The Reds won the League Cup and reached the FA Cup final, but could only finish eighth in the league, 37 points behind champions Manchester City.

Dalglish was left in a vulnerable position following the dismissal in April of director of football Damien Comolli as FSG underwent a major restructuring of the club.

“Results in the Premier League have been disappointing and we believe to build on the progress that has already been made, we need to make a change," said Werner in a statement on Liverpool’s official website.

"We are committed to delivering success for our supporters and our ambition remains resolute to return this great club to the elite of England and Europe, where it belongs."

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