Byline: BY KEN LAWRENCE
STEVE BRUCE fears his amazing attempt to take Wigan into Europe could be transformed into a relegation fight as the big clubs circle the JJB Stadium waiting to snap up his top players.
The Wigan boss is under no pressure to sell anyone, and is hoping to bring in Colombian striker Hugo Rodallega from Mexican club Necaxa in a pounds 4.5million deal.
But Antonio Valencia, Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey are just three of his team being targeted - as is loan star Emr Zaki.
And much though Bruce hates the thought, his conscience, and good business practice, would dictate that he would have to accept the right price for any of them.
"The nightmare scenario would be if someone comes in with crazy money," he admitted.
"The last thing I want to do with this team is dismantle it.
But if someone comes in with really big cheque then it would be my duty to look at the situation to protect the club long-term.
"What you worry about most are the final days of the window. That's when the big clubs get desperate if they haven't been able to get who they want.
"That's when the crazy money can be thrown around - and when it would be very difficult to turn any of it down."
Wigan have been one of the surprise sides of this season's Premier League and go into today's visit of Tottenham with a UEFA Cup place a distinct possibility by the end of the season.
But Valencia is wanted by Real Madrid, Liverpool and Arsenal. Heskey is also a target of Anfield boss RafaBenitez, as well as Aston Villa, who have also joined Manchester United and a host of other clubs in examining the prospects of Palacios.
Egyptian striker Zaki is on loan until the end of the season but could still sign a pre-contract deal - Newcastle, Everton, Tottenham, Portsmouth and Manchester City are all sniffing around.
Bruce has made an enquiry for Jermaine Pennant - who could still leave Liverpool for Real having originally failed to agree personal terms on a move - and is even growing paranoid over his attempt to add Rodallega to his collection of South Americans. …