Off-Season: Potential transfer targets (Strikers)

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)
03102010: Brøndby IF - AC Horsens 0-1
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 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.


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