It’s a day that most have known has been coming, but were hoping would never come. Today came the official conformation that the clubs final remaining foundation player, Massimo Murdocca would be returning to his hometown of Melbourne to sign a two year contract with Melbourne Heart.
Over 8 seasons, Massimo played 162 games for Brisbane, scoring just the 3 goals, but goals weren’t his thing- mind you if shooting was better he could have scored more because he got into the positions to do so. Mass’ game was all about work rate and passing, two attributes that made him fundamental to the success of the side in the early years.
We’ve all got our own personal favourite Murdocca memories and stories, but for myself I can’t go past the goal he scored in season 1 down in Newcastle. It was my first away trip and after long drive to see the boys smash the Jets 5-0 was amazing. Mass’ goal at the death was the icing on the cake.
Ofcourse it hasn’t all been highs in his time with Brisbane with injuries robbing him of the chance to pass the 200 games barrier, the worst of which was a broken leg in 2009. The leg would heel ofcourse, and it’s entirely fitting that both he and fellow stalwart Matt McKay were at the heart of Brisbane finally winning some silverware as Brisbane won back-to-back championships with Murdocca playing some of his best ever football.
As for where this leaves things for next season, Brisbane now have 17 contracted players, and the vacancies in the midfield are only heightened by today’s announcement. You all know about that stuff though and I’ve written enough about that anyway. Today’s about acknowledging the massive contribution Mass has made to the club, we can talk about the future another day.
Obviously we all thank Massimo greatly for his years of service here in Brisbane, and wish him all the very best for the future. Im sure were all looking forward to welcoming him back to Brisbane next season aswell.
– Foundation Queensland Roar player, playing in the clubs first ever match
– Final remaining Queensland Roar foundation player
– 2nd player to play 100 career games for Brisbane Roar
– 1st player to play 150 career games for Brisbane Roar
– 2x A-League Champion (2010-11, 2011-12)
– A-League Premier (2010-11)
Im sure everyone’s already seen the news and it’s not exactly a major surprise, but over the weekend Mitch Nichols has decided to leave Brisbane and join up with Melbourne Victory. He’s been a player whose divided opinion amongst fans but the fact remains he’s one of just three players to play 100 games for this club and as a home-grown player he’s yet another success story. Today we’ll take a quick look back at Mitch’s time with Brisbane, and also what it might mean going forward.
Mitch ofcourse has been at the club since the 2006/07 season where he first got his chance under Frank Farina, and although he was overshadowed by the wing trio of Michael Zullo, Robbie Kruse and Tahj Minnieccon he still showed glimpses back then of what was to come. It was however the 2007/08 season where he really began to impress.
After influential Scottish import Charlie Miller picked up a long term hernia injury, Mitch was given his chance to start on a regular basis in the hole behind Sergio van Djik, and he took it with both hands, scoring five goals and helping Queensland to the finals. That form also earned him a Socceroos cap in an Asian Cup qualifier. The 2009/10 season saw Mitch become an ever-present in the side, however his form dropped significantly in what was a disappointing season for the club as a whole and at time when there were significant changes to all aspects of the club.
He bounced back however along with all of his teammates the following season to become apart of the first Brisbane side to win a trophy, playing a key role in the Premiership/Championship double scoring 6 goals and assisting 6 others. It was however the 2011-12 season that was his best. 10 goals and 5 assists from midfield proved to make him one of the league’s premier attacking midfielders and earned him another national team call-up. His solid performances also attracted the interest of European clubs- however that failed to eventuate and he returned for a 6th season this past year.
Again, this past year was far from his best, but similarly to the team as a whole his form picked up towards the end of the competition and he became a key component once again to Mulvey’s attacking strategy. For mine, Mitch is a confidence player, whose form tends to mirror that of the team as a whole. When the team is functioning properly and playing well, he plays his best football, but when things are going wrong his form can drop.
Just what sort of a loss is Mitch? Well he’s a pretty big loss for a number of reasons Firstly there’s the whole ‘local kid who came through the ranks’ part and it’s always good to see young Brisbane or Queensland talent come through and play for the Roar. Those are largely sentimental reasons however, and he’s also a big loss in football terms.
Whatever your opinion on him as a player, finding good Australian attacking midfielders is not an easy task, and that explains why multiple clubs were chasing him for next season. Because the reality is- unless you manage to attract a Nick Carle or Dario Vidosic as marquee players, you’re left largely with younger players with upside- and there’s no guarantee they’ll work out. It’s because of that, that any replacement for Mitch will almost certainly be a foreigner and as we’ve seen throughout history that’s always a somewhat risky proposition.
This quote from his new boss Ange Postecoglou sums the situation around Australian attacking midfielders up perfectly: “Goal-scoring midfielders aren’t easy to come by and Mitch’s track-record speaks for itself, so I’m looking forward to seeing him on the first day of pre-season training.” There’s no doubt Brisbane will miss Mitch, but he can be replaced, and now it’s up to Mulvey and the rest of the football department to fill what is a vital hole in the side with the right player. The Roar Review thanks Mitch for his time in Brisbane, and wishes him well into the future.
Games: 125 (2nd most in club history)
Goals: 24 (3rd most in club history)
Achievements:– 2 A-League Championships (2010-11, 2011-12)
– 1 A-League Premiership (2010-11)
– First goal in club history in the AFC Champions League
Over the past couple of weeks we’ve taken a look at the market and potential transfer targets, today we’ll round out this short series by looking at the defenders. In general, the backline is largely set with Stefanutto, Hingert, North, Donachie, Smith and possibly Franjic all set to play major roles next season. There’s also the young Corey Brown who will be pushing for the left back role. There is however a need for one more defender imo, it’s just a question of which position.
If as expected Franjic remains in that right wing role he made his own at the end of this season, then that opens up the right back slot to some degree- with Jack Hingert the likely favourite for the role. It is also however worth considering the possibility that Jade North –who has international caps as a right fullback- could move over to the right to accommodate young Donachie who was the big improver this year. If Franjic is going to be moving back to the fullback role, then a central defender is the need, and possibly another winger if Halloran heads off- more on that another day. The irritating thing is Brisbane had the perfect candidate for this role in house just 12 months ago, but they let him go to Melbourne. For now, I’ll divide this up into two categories- right backs and centre backs to cover all possibilities.
Regardless of whether or not it’s a right back or centre back, the reality is were mostly looking for a back-up player, which means that not all of these options are overly appealing. There are a couple of decent ones however.
Tarek Elrich (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Tarek has been apart of the A-League since it’s inception and has been one of the more consistent performers down the right hand side, firstly with Newcastle and then in limited opportunities with Western Sydney. That move to the Wanderers didn’t quite work out for him, and if you’re looking for an attacking right back who likes to get forward, he’s probably the most similar to Franjic.
Dylan McGowan (Hearts)
Dylan is somebody that Mulvey has worked with in the past in the dying days of the Gold Coast, where McGowan was on loan. He largely played as a right back in those teams, but he’s played both right and centre back over in Scotland, and that versatility makes him a good candidate for this defensive utility position. While Hearts have some financial issues of their own right now, I read that just recently he signed a new contract with Hearts which probably makes this an unlikely signing, despite being a perfect fit.
Aryn Williams (Burnley)
Younger brother of fringe Socceroo Rhys, the young Aryn has spent the past couple of years developing in the Burnley academy and reserves, but has failed to make the grade as they pursue another run at the EPL and has recently been released. This is the type of player I believe the A-League should be trying to attract home, in order to get him first team experience, and of all the right back options, this one is the best for mine.
Frane Vladislavic (Primorac 1929- Croatian 2nd division), Matthew Byrne (Teleoptik—Serbian 2nd division), Shane Huke (Dover Athletic)
An interesting mix here, Huke has some A-League experience with Central Coast from the Lawrie McKinna era, and was something of a utility in his time here. He wasn’t exactly a standout and is now playing non-league in England. The other two are youngsters trying to make their way in Eastern Europe- idk much about Vladislavic but those who went to the early days of the NYL will remember Byrne. He was a member of the inaugural Roar NYL squad is a Brisbane boy which makes him an interesting option. Of these 3, id opt for Byrne, but it’s unlikely any of these guys would add much.
Scrap heap guys:
Jamie Coyne (Melbourne Heart), Trent McClenahan (Sydney FC), Spase Dilevski (Melbourne Victory)
These three are all mediocre at best options and in truth should be avoided at all costs. If I had to pick between the three of them, id opt for McClenahan, purely because he’s younger, but in truth the A-League has moved past these guys.
The market for central defenders is a little deeper than that of the right backs, however most of them are probably in the unrealistic options, due to the salary cap space and the fact Brisbane already has three central defenders signed up. This role could have –and I guess could still be- filled by NYL player of the year Ross Archibald, however he was reportedly told at the end of the season he wouldn’t be offered a deal.
Adrian Madaschi (Jeju United), Milan Susak (Sepahan), Lucas Neill (Sydney FC), Patrick Kisnorbo (Leeds United)
All of these guys are quality defenders and would do a solid enough job in the A-League, the problem is that they’d all be after more money and playing time than Brisbane could likely offer them. Infact all of them could get a better opportunity elsewhere in the A-League when you look at some of the defences currently assembled. Having the national team captain would be a nice marketing angle, but it’s just not a fit.
Brent Griffiths (Central Coast Mariners)
There aren’t too many good options available for the role required, but Brent has been in and around the A-League system for awhile now, with the Mariners, Phoenix and Glory but in recent times he’s began to show some potential. With a small-ish squad Graham Arnold was forced to rotate his squad in the title run in and Griffiths did a solid job when called upon in the Champions League. As a squad player/backup he’d be an interesting option, however im not sure Brisbane needs another left footed defender.
Aaron Downes (Torquay United), Shane Cansdell Sherriff (Rochedale- on loan from Preston North End), Aleksandar Jovanovic (Suwon FC- Korean 2nd tier)
These three have all spent considerable time playing football overseas, with Downes even becoming a club captain in his time in the English lower leagues. Sherriff graduated from the 2004 Olyroos group as a left back but these days he’s more of a central defender who spent the season just finished out on loan which leads one to think he could be available. Jovanovic is something of a journeyman –despite being only 23- having played in Serbia, Thailand and now Korea. Of the three, Sherriff is probably the better player, but the question remains would he return to Australia as a backup?
Scrap heap guys:
Nathan Sherlock (Sydney FC), Steve Pantelidis (Perth Glory), Dane Milovanovic (Pelita Jaya- Indonesian Super League), Adam Griffiths (Sydney FC)
Two of these guys have previously played for Brisbane, with Sherlock trialing for a contract in the 2010 pre-season, and Milovanovic being a graduate of the NYL squad. Neither are worth a serious look however. Pantelidis wouldn’t be the worst back-up in a squad sense because he could fill in at RB/CB/CM, but his temperament hasn’t exactly been the best down the years and im not sure he’d fit the Roar way. Of all these guys, A. Griffiths would be the best option, in that he can also play the same 3 positions as Pantelidis, but in a dire Sydney backline he couldn’t either stay fit or get regular game time which leads one to think he could be done.
Who would I prefer?
Well, again it depends on the type of defender Mulvey is looking for. Of the right back options, id lean towards Williams over Elrich just because of the time he’s spent in a European club. Centre back is tougher because there’s already 3 starting calibre players signed up, but Griffiths as a squad option wouldn’t be the worst idea. Jovanovic might also be worth a look. It’s all down to Franjic and where he’s going play though, that’s what will determine which defensive position is required. Regardless of position, I do think that another defensive option should be added.
Over the past couple of weeks we’ve taken a look at the market and potential transfer targets, today we take a look at the central midfield position. It’s definitely a need area moving forward, with on loan Steve Lustica no guarantee to return, and also Massimo Murdocca heavily linked with a return to Melbourne. That leaves just Luke Brattan, George Lambadaridis and full time NYL player Ben Liftin as current options. While I expect Lambadaridis to make a step up this season, I think expecting him to be a starting XI player from the beginning of the year is a big ask, and for mine Liftin needs more time before being considered. All of that leads me to think that two signings are needed in this area if Murdocca does depart, one of which must be capable of stepping in right away. Ideally Liam Miller –if that signing comes to fruition- would be considered for this type of role, but that doesn’t seem like the plan.
Best case scenario:
Steve Lustica (HNK Hajduk Split)
Lustica came in at an important time of last season to fill a vital hole in the side for the push to the finals, and if you look back at it, he did a solid job adding balance to the side. It seems like right now there’s atleast some interest from Lustica to and Mulvey to continue the reunion from their GC NYL days, however it would require a deal to be done with his Croatian club. In a perfect world, he’d be the first option for the role to continue his growth alongside Brattan, but it seems unlikely.
Matt Thompson (Melbourne Heart)
There’s not a great market for central midfielders available from A-League clubs right now, but the standout option of those is Matt Thompson. Over the life of the A-League, Matt has proven to be an extremely versatile player who’s found a role playing in a midfield trio. The issue around Thompson could be the financial aspect however, because his last free agency saw him move to Melbourne from the Jets on a lucrative big money deal by A-League standards, so there’s some doubt he’d be able fit in the salary cap.
Mitch Cooper (Newcastle Jets)
The first thing to mention here is that Mitch has a contract with the Newcastle Jets for next season, I believe as a full-time NYL player. Im not sure of the specifics of how the transfer rules work these days about approaching for other clubs NYL players, and if being full-time NYL changes that, but just as a player I can see him being someone Mulvey would consider. He had an alright season this past year, albeit with limited opportunities and if the rumours of unrest in the Newcastle dressing room are true, Mitch might be available.
Carl Valeri (Grosseto)
I might be misreading this one slightly, but what I do know is that he’s currently out of favour at his Serie B club, which has been on the precipice of promotion to the Serie A for a couple of years now, and it’s now starting to cost him international call-ups. Im not sure he’d be overly keen on a return to Australia, but as a fit alongside Brattan I think he would do a similar job that Lustica did at the end of last season, and at his best he’d be one of the top central midfielders in the league. Financially there’s also a question here, because he’s not marquee quality, but in order to get him back to Australia in what should be his prime years it might take that.
Neil Kilkenny (Bristol City)
There’s a few decent options overseas currently that could be convinced to return to Australia, starting with Bristol City midfielder Neil Kilkenny. Relegation ofcourse is a tough time for any club and players who are either high earners or non-essential components of the side can be available, and there’s also an argument that in a world cup year he might have a better shot at Socceroos selection playing back here in Australia rather than the English 3rd tier. He also has a history of living in Queensland while growing up before joining the Arsenal academy. Kilkenny made 17 appearances this season just gone for Bristol City.
James Wesolowski (Oldham Athletic)
While Neil Kilkenny is potentially destined for life in League One, James Wesolowski has already spent this past season at that level at Oldham Athletic where he made 33 appearances. Im not sure he’s quite ready to return to Australia and he doesn’t have the links to Queensland that Kilkenny does, but he represents an interesting option nevertheless. A move home might do his career and international prospects better however.
Jonas Salley (Guizhou Renhe)
This one is an under the radar option, and Jonas has always done a solid job in the A-League, be it for New Zealand Knights, Sydney FC, Adelaide United and even Gold Coast United. Im not sure if Salley was still around in that final season when Mulvey took over or not, I remember Bleiberg brought him in mid-season, but im not sure if he was still there after Bleiberg’s departure. As a fit, im not sure he’s the best option to play alongside Brattan in the way things are currently constructed in the midfield, but he is a solid player.
Scrap heap guys:
Fabian Barbiero (Adelaide United), Jobe Wheelhouse (uncontracted), Nick Ward (Perth Glory), Diogo Ferreira (Melbourne Victory), Paul Reid (Sydney FC), Adam Hughes (Harbin Yiteng- Chinese 2nd division), Sasa Macura (MTK Budapest), Andreas Govas (Kalloni F.C)
There’s a few options on the scrap heap here, some of which are better than others. The best of those would be Jobe Wheelhouse –linked with Brisbane a couple weeks ago- and Fabian Barbiero. Both for mine could be OK players in the league, however they’d be just backup types, not starters. The most likely as a fit however, could actually be Diogo Ferreira. He might not be the greatest player, but as a squad player he could fill in at both right back and in midfield if needed- it just wouldn’t be pretty. Reid and Hughes I just threw in here for the sake of it, and in truth both seem like they’re done at this level. Govas and Macura are tough to gauge because I’ve never seen either of them play, but from the reports I’ve read, Macura is a defensive midfield type, whereas Govas is more of a midfielder who likes to get forward. On the whole, im not sure Govas and Macura are worth pursing.
Who would I prefer?
Like Most, I think that Lustica is the best fit for the team is for Lustica to return and to continue the combination with Luke Brattan. There were some promising signs towards the end of last season and if that continues it could blossom into one of the elite combinations in the A-League. If Lustica doesn’t return, I think that there isn’t much separating Thompson and Kilkenny as players. Id probably give the edge to Kilkenny, but not by that much because the versatility of Thompson is still a selling point- even if he’s not played in another position for a couple of seasons. If Murdocca as predicted does leave and they do chase a second central midfielder, it’s anyone’s guess which of the scrapheap types they go after, Wheelhouse has been linked in the past, whereas someone like a Barbiero can get you the odd goal from midfield. It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out, because the midfield recruitment looms as critical to any success next season.
Last week I laid out the needs of the roster as it’s currently constructed, aswell as which players could be a fit in the attacking third, today we move to the middle third of the pitch, and more specifically the attacking midfielder role. The creation of this role was the main tactical change made by Mulvey since he took over, and despite big things being expected of Stef Nijland, he failed to deliver.
Once again on the whole I’ve stayed away from foreign signings because it’s near impossible to gauge which players are off contract and interested in moving across the world to the A-League. The exception to this rule however is Liam Miller, who has been linked quite heavily in recent weeks. That results in this list being rather short, because there’s just not many local options who can fill this role.
Nichols is somebody ofcourse were well aware of, and he’s a player who’s been divided opinions since his arrival on the scene back in 2008. The truth of the matter however is he’s a perfectly fine attacking midfielder in the A-League who can get you 8-10 goals a season. The Postecoglou era shows you how effective Mitch can be when used effectively in a system that suits him well, and towards the end of this past season he began to get back to some of his best football.
The question around Mitch however is more about his desire to re-sign, as opposed to him being the right choice. If he’s available and keen to stay, he’d be a fantastic re-signing that would do the job, and would allow the precious foreign spots to be re-allocated to another area of the team. Mitch has however indicated his preference to try and secure a move to a European club for next season, in a attempt to take his game to the next level, and perhaps get into the Socceroos squad more regularly. He’s also been linked with other A-League clubs –including Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory- but you’d like to think he’d remain here in Brisbane as opposed to heading south.
Miller has been heavily linked to the Roar, to the point where reportedly the deal is all but done, pending a medical. As a player we’ve seen him in the A-League for the past two seasons and he definitely added something to the Glory side in midfield, particularly late this season. When Ali Edwards took over and switched Miller to the #10 role and moved McGarry back into a deeper role, Miller began to show what he’s capable of and while he’s not a natural #10 in the normal sense, he’s still very creative and can open up defences.
Despite playing reasonably well in that #10 role for Glory, Miller still tended to drop deeper at times for Perth to start attacks. Therefore, in order for Miller to be a fit with the Roar, we may see the midfield’s shape change once again for next season. When Mulvey took over we saw Paartalu at the base with two of the others ahead of him, before Mulvey altered that to the current shape of Brattan and Lustica, with Nijland/Nichols ahead of them. Miller may force another re-shaping of the midfield with his tendencies to drop deeper at times which could lead to Berisha being more isolated and having to drop off the front line further. Personally, id prefer someone who held his line in the team and floated in the holes to create a passing avenue on the counter. In the end, for mine Miller is more of a #8 type of midfielder, and not the true #10 were lacking as things stand.
This one is perhaps wishful thinking, and im not totally sure of his contractual situation in Qatar, but where you start talking about creative Australian midfielders, there aren’t too many better than Bresc. There’s obviously some doubt about his willingness to return home the year before the world cup, but Osiek has shown a willingness to include local players in recent times. This one seems highly unlikely to me, but if he were to become available, you would hope he would be considered. As a player, there’s no doubt he would be excellent both in the A-League, and in the Brisbane system, and there is no doubt he would qualify for marquee status if Brisbane do decide to head down this route.
Of the options, despite making the case, I don’t think Bresciano is coming back to the A-League, and of the other two im a bigger fan of Nichols than Miller. Nichols is just more of a natural fit in that #10 role, whereas Miller is more of a deeper lying type playmaker for mine. There’s also the fact I’ll always take the local, home grown and developed guy over the foreign player. Miller seems like the overwhelming favourite for the position as it stands, and while it wouldn’t be a terrible signing, it would require a bit of a change in shape for next season, to a true 4-3-3, as opposed to the current 4-2-3-1.
Yesterday I laid out the needs of the roster as it’s currently constructed, and starting with today and continuing over the next few days, I’ll take a look at some local Australian options who could fill a role in the squad. I’ve not included international players for the most part purely because it’s so hard to speculate which ones are actually available and interested in a move to the A-League.
Today- we’ll take a look at the striker position, and this is a position where there is a definite projected starter for next season (Berisha), which means that by and large were looking for a back-up type player. The Australian striker market isn’t strong even at the best of times, there are however a couple of interesting options who could be worth a look.
n.b: I didn’t include Kosta Barbarouses in this, because for mine he’s not a realistic target. He’s contracted to a club in Russia, and is getting game time for one of the big clubs of Greek football. Nor have I included Reinaldo, who’s both returned to his homeland of Brazil, and is out long term with a knee injury anyway.
Jean Carlos Solórzano (Alajuelense)
Despite saying I wasn’t including foreign players in this, I will however start this with a Costa Rican striker we all know about- Jean Carlos Solórzano. I include him because his name has been mentioned as a possible candidate due to Mulvey going on what Marco described in the paper last week as ‘an overseas scouting trip, with one player –reportedly a Costa Rican attacker- on his radar’. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the player he’s reportedly looking at is based in Costa Rica- but we’ll examine the possibility anyway. We all know the history and style of JCS, but one thing people fail to remember a lot of the time is that he arrived with a dose of osteitis pubis which kept him sidelined for the first third of the season. That however didn’t stop him from becoming a serious contributor ending the season with 11 goals from 25 matches. The problem however lies in the fact that over the past 2 years he hasn’t exactly played a lot of football. His stint at Melbourne Victory was ill-fated and didn’t seem to fit the plans of Durkaovic or Magilton after being signed by Merrick, and since his return to Alajuelense he’s only been a bit part player- mostly off the bench. That’s nothing a solid pre-season cant fix, but it is a bit of a concern. If they are looking for a foreign striker, they could do far worse than sign a proven commodity in this league, and system of play.
Corey Gameiro (Fulham)
Moving back to the local players, starting with a young player that was a late arrival to the league last season, but he had an impact, and that’s Corey Gameiro. Corey only scored 1 goal in 7 for a poor Wellington side, but he showed enough to prove that he’s a good young player who has potential moving forward, and is reportedly negotiating with other A-League clubs. He was also a key reason why Australia qualified for the u/20 World Cup this season, scoring 6 goals in the Asian qualification series earlier in the year. Of all the Australian options, this is by far my favourite option as he’s a young player who can lead the line well, has goals in him and is a different type of player to Berisha. He’d also be a good investment opportunity going forward in that they could on sell him to Europe again, and it would continue to the youth development the club has made its name on.
Harry Kewell (Al Gharafa)
When talking about Australian attacking players who are available, Harry is the name that automatically jumps to most people’s mind. His earlier stint in the A-League with Melbourne wasn’t overly successful for the team as a whole, but 8 goals in 25 games is a decent return given their usage of him, and you could argue that if he was in a better organised side he could have been better again. Im not sure he’s worth marquee money anymore, but if you could get him on a deal inside the salary cap and you can get him healthy, he can still be a major difference maker in this league. He’d also be about the best fit to complement Berisha as striker as he plays similarly in that he likes to drop off the front line to link up, which would allow Berisha to stay further up the park.
Australian players based overseas:
Dylan Tombides (West Ham United)
18 months ago Dylan was one of the highest rated one of the highest rated Australian players who was getting game time as a teenager at one of England’s best clubs for player development in recent times. Unfortunately for Dylan however, he’s had a host of serious long term injures including testicular cancer, and in April this season he’s gone under the knife for a liver operation. It’s a long shot that he comes back to Australia, especially given he made his debut in the League Cup earlier this season, but he’s on the fringes of the West Ham team and could be looking for a loan- albeit most likely in England. This one is a long shot, but is an interesting option if it came up.
Nathan Burns: (Incheon United)
For those that don’t remember, Burns was one of the original young starlets the A-League produced and after a solid time with Adelaide, he got his dream move to AEK in the Greek Superleague. Unfortunately for Nathan, he struggled to get a look in at the Greek powerhouse, and after a loan move to Kerkyra, he moved on to Incheon in the K-League in time for the 2012 season. That move has also failed to bear fruit for the now 24 year old and he has been linked with a return to Australia in the past 12 months. Nathan isn’t a typical striker, he is however a dangerous, pacey and versatile attacker who is capable of playing upfront, in behind the striker and also out wide on the right and would fit in nicely to Brisbane’s style of play.
Brent McGrath (Brondby FF)
McGrath, now 21, has spent 7 years all up now with the Danish club, starting out in their academy before moving on to the first team where he’s made 37 appearances to date, with just 8 senior games to date this season (total of 206 minutes). The 190cm striker –who made his debut for Australia as a late sub vs. Germany in 2011- would offer a point of difference and possibly allow the team to be more ‘direct’ in an aerial route if desired. He’s one who’s worth a real look however for mine, because young Australians with a significant amount of European experience who are struggling to get their breakthrough are worth a chance. Who knows, it could be as successful as Alex Brosque, Erik Paartalu and Michael Theo were as recruits from difficult and unsuccessful European journeys.
Robert Stambolizev (Olympiakos Nicosia)
Robert is largely unknown in Australia, however the winger/striker has significant European experience for a player only 22 years old. He started out in the academy of Bristol City, before moving on to Panathinaikos, Kavala and now Olympiakos Nicosia of Cyprus. He’s a difficult one to gage however because having never seen him play it’s tough to know what kind of a fit he is.
Scrap heap guys: Jarrod Kyle (Sydney FC), Joey Gibbs (Western Sydney Wanderers) Marko Jesic (Newcastle), Brendan Santalab (Chongqing- Chinese 2nd division)
Kyle was a late season signing for Sydney FC, however he failed to make the grade, playing just the one game in the NYL before being released. He’s a product of the Sheffield Wednesday academy system, however it looks like he’s not up to the standard right now. Gibbs played reasonably well early in the season, but struggled to get regular game time ahead of Haliti and Kressinger at the Premiers. He’s young and has a bit of experience, however im hoping for someone a tad better than him as the primary backup to Berisha. Jesic has had a host of injury –predominantly knee- concerns in his time in the A-League, he is however a bit more versatile and can play both upfront and in a wider area if needed. He was linked with a move to the MLS at the back end of the season, but im not convinced. A goalscoring record of 6 goals in 46 games over 5 seasons is hardly reassuring. The final name on this list of four is Brendan Santalab, who has overseas experience in Belgium and China aswell as a stint with Sydney FC from 2007-09. He wasn’t a prolific scorer in the A-League previously (4 goals in 32), he was however willing to take shots from outside the box when the opportunity presents itself which arguably is something this squad lacks. Also- during his time in Australia, he was exclusively a striker, however according to transfermarket.com he’s being used in China as a left winger which adds versatility.
Who would I prefer?
On the whole, out of those options my personal preferences would be for Nathan Burns, Corey Gameiro Brent McGrath and Harry Kewell with a preference on the three younger options. All four should be available for solid, but not unreasonable in cap wages and could provide not only a back-up for Berisha, but also provide something to the squad in their own right. Despite including him, I view Tombides as an extreme long shot, and without knowing much about Stambolizev it’s tough to give much of an opinion. Solórzano is obviously a well known player in this league, and if they’re looking at a foreigner they could do far worse.
Of the scrapheap guys, my order of preference is: Gibbs, Santalab, Jesic then Kyle a distant fourth. Gibbs is just the more complete player of the bunch, and Santalab would offer a something different. Jesic is too injury prone/inconsistent for mine and Kyle couldn’t even get 1 sub appearance for Sydney.
The off-season has been with us for a couple of weeks now, and despite no confirmed signings and only the three departures, there’s been no shortage of rumours. Today, I’ll quickly recap all of the rumours, and then take a look at the squad currently to assess where new signings might be needed.
So far as it stands the only confirmed transfer activity is the departure of trio Stef Nijland, Matt Jurman and James Meyer who were released in the immediate aftermath of the seasons end. That’s largely down to the fact a lot of Brisbane’s shopping was done in the January window. There have however been other transfer rumours, both coming and going, and incase you missed some- here they are:
Rumoured Transfers incoming:
– Liam Miller (Perth Glory CM/AM- fgn)
– Jobe Wheelhouse- (Currently uncontracted, spent 7 and a half years with Newcastle)
– Steven Lustica (Ended last season in Brisbane, on loan from Dinamo, linked to permanent deal)
Rumoured Transfers outgoing:
– Ben Halloran (Linked with Fortuna Düsseldorf in the German Bundesliga)
– Massimo Murdocca (Linked with a free transfer to Melbourne Heart)
– Mitch Nichols (Linked to off-season trials in Europe + a move to Melbourne Victory)
So that’s 18 players signed (2 keepers, 7 defenders, 11 midfielders, 1 striker) signed up with four foreign signings and one marquee player. A-League rules state that clubs must have a minimum of twenty first team squad players, with a maximum of 23 players and an addition 3 full-time NYL players on top of that. I’ve included the two full time NYL players in the above graphic because despite the fact they’re technically NYL players, they’ll more than likely train every day with the first team, and the three players previously on similar deals –Fitzgerald, Brown and Lambadaridis- all got first team football in both seasons they held similar deals.
Just to wrap this up, here’s a quick summary on the depth of each position:
This is one area that doesn’t require anything moving forward into next season. Theo is the unquestioned #1 right now and Acton will continue his development as the back-up. He’ll want to impress if and when given the chance however given his contract will be up in 12 months time.
Like the wing position, a lot of this depends on how Mulvey views Franjic going forward. My guess is that Franjic will be viewed as a winger at the start of next season, which if accurate leaves Hingert as the only genuine right back in the squad and given Jack’s injury history it could be prudent to have a back-up. There’s the possibility in the case of an injury Franjic would move back into the defence, however we saw in the semi-final the difference in the side when Franjic plays in defence as opposed to further forward. This then could be one area where Mulvey considers a squad type signing, unless the versatile Jade North is going to slide across to the right at times- in that case another central defender would be useful.
The left hand side isn’t half as confusing: Stefanutto will go into the season as the starter, with youth international Corey Brown his understudy for atleast the start of the season. Given Shane’s age and injury history, injuries are somewhat inevitable and in that case Brown is ready to step up and do a solid job on the left side.
Like in goals, this is another area that doesn’t require much attention, with Smith North and Donachie forming a solid top 3 central defensive options. Keep in mind that the likely first choice combination of Smith and North is yet to play together, so that’s a slight unknown going into next year. Donachie has proven himself capable at the level, and he’s played strongly alongside both. I do think that an 8th defender would be a handy squad addition, but im not sure it’s a massive priority, as opposed to other areas. Ideally that squad defender would be capable of filling both the right back and centre back positions.
This is one of two absolute priority areas for recruitment, as there is precious little experience in this area of the park- a problem which will be even further highlighted if foundation player Massimo Murdocca does infact move on to Melbourne Heart. As things currently stand there’s Luke Brattan who’s been outstanding since getting a regular run in the side, but apart from him there’s only youngsters George Lambadaridis and Ben Liftin- and you can basically forget Liftin for the moment. While he’s a quality young player with a lot of promise, he’s also still rather raw and needs more time in the NYL first.
If Murdocca does move on, two new signings will be needed in this area of the part, with loan signing Steve Lustica an ideal solution if they can prise him away from his Croatian club. The other could be Liam Miller who according to all reports is on his way to Brisbane from Perth. He could be the solution here, however there’ also the chance he’d be asked to play in the #10 role where Nijland and Nichols operated last season, and in that case another option may be required. So to sum it up, for mine atleast two quality signings are required here, and if Miller is being signed to play further forward a 3rd could be on the cards.
Again, this depends on how Mulvey views Franjic, but again im assuming he’s now a winger full time, and if he is then he’s clearly the first choice. If he’s viewed as a fullback still, then Ben Halloran will likely go into the season as the man in attack on the right- that’s assuming ofcourse he sticks around given recent speculation linking him with a move to Germany. Similarly to Liftin, I wouldn’t expect too much from Yeboah too soon, despite his involvement in the finals series (although the fact he did said more about Mulvey’s opinion of Davies, Dong-Hyun and Meyer for mine). I really expect Franjic to remain further forward, so that makes this an area requiring little attention.
Just like it has been for the past three seasons, this side of the park is all about marquee man Thomas Broich who is set to once again terrorise the right side of opposition defences. Young Julius Davies (Doe) will provide adequate depth, and there’s also Korean import Do Dong-Hyun still on the books, although I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he moved on before the players return for pre-season in about a months time.
Since Mulvey has arrived and inverted the triangle in midfield to now include a point just behind the striker, this is now the second big need in the squad. As it currently stands Henrique and I guess Julies Doe (maybe?) could play in this role, and for mine more creativity and goalscoring is needed in this role. Perhaps this is where Liam Miller fits in if that rumour comes to fruition, however I see him fitting in better in a slightly deeper midfield role. Reports are that Mulvey is heading off on an overseas scouting trip to look for a player possibly in this role or as a striker so we’ll see what he uncovers. It should also not be ruled out that Mitch Nichols re-signs and fill this need.
Obviously there’s nothing wrong with Berisha who has Brisbane’s best games/goals ratio –and possibly the league?- however, despite his reported displeasure in January a backup to provide cover in case of injury and competition is important. Last season when Brisbane were forced to make it work with the whole false #9 option with Henrique or whoever else it just didn’t work (Meyer did an ok job, just not in the opinion of Mulvey, but whatever) so an additional striker is required.
Just to wrap this up neatly, here’s a brief summary of the above, in the order of highest priority to lowest priority:
1) Attacking midfielder to play behind the striker in place
2) Central midfielder to play alongside Brattan in the heart of the midfield
3) Additional striker to provide competition to Berisha
4) Additional central midfielder to provide competition to Brattan/??? **
5) Utility defender capable of playing both RB and CB
**#4 on that little list could be Massimo Murdocca if infact remains in Brisbane- although reports from the awards night on Friday make that sound highly unlikely.
Just finally (I promise this time!) here’s the list of free-agents across the league- not including Brisbane.
Central Coast: TBA
Melbourne Heart: Colosimo, M. Thompson, Fred (fgn), Bolton
Melbourne Victory: Ferreira, Dilevski, Velaphi, Gallagher.
Newcastle: Jesic, Ritter (fgn), Ribeiro (fgn)
Perth: Miller (fgn), Ward, Heffernan, Berger, Italiano.
Sydney: Fabio (fgn), Neill, Lovrek (fgn), Reid, Sherlock ,McClenahan, A. Griffiths, Kyle.
Western Sydney: Kressinger (fgn), Elrich, Gibbs Visconte.
More on which of these could be potential fits over the coming days.