Free Agency Begins- Assessing realistic options for Brisbane.

A lot depends on this man's decision (AAP: Patrick Hamilton)

A lot depends on this man’s decision (AAP: Patrick Hamilton)

Yes, the A-League has barely started, but given the way the league is structured players are free to begin discussions and be approached by rival clubs from November 1st. Don’t expect too see a stack of deals confirmed this early however, with most clubs and players preferring to wait until the new year to confirm transfers or commence talks. We’ll start by looking at Brisbane’s free agents, and then take a brief look at a couple of players who might make sense given their situation.

Brisbane Roar squad for 2014/15 (As at 13/11/2013)
16 players contracted, 3 foreign, 3 u/21, 2 marquee players.
Goalkeepers: (1) Michael Theo.
Defenders: (5) Matt Smith, Jade North, James Donachie, Jack Hingert, Corey Brown.
Midfielders: (8) Liam Miller, Ivan Franjic, Matt McKay, Luke Brattan, Thomas Broich, George Lambadaridis, Julius Doe, Ben Liftin (FT NYL).
Forwards: (2) Henrique, Kwame Yeboah (FT NYL).

Off contract:
Matt Acton, Shane Stefanutto, Diogo Ferreira, Dimitri Petratos, Kofi Danning, Besart Berisha.

Obviously one name on this list leaps out, and the entire recruitment strategy is dependant on what Berisha decides to do. Without question they should look to bring him back, but he’s going to receive plenty of interest from around this league –Sydney have already flagged their interest- and abroad. If he re-signs than that’s fantastic as Brisbane would have arguably their most important player locked up long term, if he leaves than the entire off-season strategy will be built around finding a replacement in Europe.

For the rest- the only other major issue surrounds Shane Stefanutto- who has to decide between opting to stick around and fight for a spot with Corey Brown breathing down his neck, or retiring. Either way- id like to see him stick around the club in a coaching capacity if he does opt to retire. Petratos and Ferreira haven’t been around long enough as yet to make an informed opinion about their long term situation, but they’d either stick around for a similar deal, or be replaced by similar players. Acton is to me at least a no-brainer to re-sign, the only alternative I can see is Jerrad Tyson of the Wanderers, however the only difference between the two is that he has a handful of games from his GCU days and he’d be better off staying with the Wanderers with Covic nearly set to retire anyway.

What might Brisbane need?
– Striker
– Goalkeeper
– Depth defender
– Utility attacker

Again, it’s hard to gauge at this early stage of the season, but with the off-contract list they definitely need a goalkeeper and a striker added to the list for next season. Ideally that would be Acton and Berisha, but nothing is guaranteed and they may need to turn their attentions elsewhere. Other than that with Ferreira and Stefanutto off contract they need at least one more defender in the squad for cover, preferably a left footer if Stefanutto retires, along with a versatile attacker which could end up being Kwame Yeboah being promoted into the 1st team. There’s also the potential of that spot being taken by Kofi Danning.

The other thing to factor in is that Brisbane has little room to move in order to fill these spots- with both marquee places taken, and the majority of their free cap space will have to be dedicated to either Berisha or a replacement. That is unless someone like Franjic opts to go overseas in which case more cap space is freed up, but there’s another key hole to fill. So with all that in mind, which players might make sense for Brisbane to pursue for next year?

Other clubs:

Adelaide United (7 players)
Jake Barker-Daish, Daniel Bowles, Nigel Boogaard, Marcelo Carrusca, Antony Golec, Jon McKain, Steven Lustica.

Brisbane Roar (5)
Matt Acton, Besart Berisha, Diogo Ferreira, Dimitri Petratos, Shane Stefanutto, Kofi Danning.

Central Coast (9)
Zach Anderson, Marcos Flores (owned by Victory), Brent Griffiths, Daniel McBreen, Justin Pasfield, Liam Reddy, Trent Sainsbury, Matt Simon, Mile Sterjovski.

Melbourne Heart (13)
Orlando Engelaar, Patrick Gerhardt, Jason Hoffman, Harry Kewell, Patrick Kisnorbo, Golgol Mebrahtu, Michael Mifsud, Dylan Macallister, Sam Mitchinson, Tando Velaphi, David Vrankovic, Jeremy Walker, David Williams.

Melbourne Victory (7)
Jonathan Bru, Pablo Contreras, Gui Finkler, James Jeggo, Adrian Leijer, Archie Thompson, Adama Traore.

Newcastle Jets (14)
Michael Bridges, James Brown, Connor Chapman, Joey Gibbs, Craig Goodwin, Emile Heskey, Kew Jaliens, Ben Kantarovski, Scott Neville, Jacob Pepper, John Solari, Adam Taggart.

Perth Glory (12)
Jacob Burns, Jack Clisby, Travis Dodd, Chris Harold, Ndumba Makeche, Steve McGarry, Brandon O’Neill, Steve Pantelidis, Sidnei Sciola, Shane Smeltz, Michael Thwaite, Adrian Zahra.

Sydney FC (15)
Ali Abbas, Tiago Calvano, Joel Chianese, Alessandro Del Piero, Slobodan Despotovic, Brett Emerton, Richard Garcia, Vedran Janjetovic, Matt Jurman, Mitch Mallia, Terry McFlynn, Ivan Necevski, Nikola Petkovic, Blake Powell, Marc Warren.

Wellington Phoenix (11)
Luke Adams, Leo Bertos, Michael Boxall, Josh Brindell-South, Carlos Hernandez, Stein Huysegems, Paul Ifill, Lewis Italiano, Vince Lia, Manny Muscat, Albert Riera.

Western Sydney (15)
Michael Beauchamp, Shannon Cole, Ante Covic, Adam D’Apuzzo, Labinot Haliti, Youssouf Hersi, Dean Heffernan, Aaron Mooy, Shinji Ono, Jerome Polenz, Matthew Spiranovic, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Jason Trifiro, Jerrad Tyson.

Below are just a couple of the options that Brisbane may look at.

Brent Griffiths:
The versatile Mariners defender could be a fit for Brisbane should Stefanutto opt to retire, with the ability to play both as a central defender and a left back. This would also open up the left-back slot to youngster Corey Brown to establish himself. Griffiths, 23, has 20 appearances across 3 A-League clubs over four seasons and found himself involved in key games for the Mariners in their ACL campaign last year.

James Brown:
While not a perfect fit, I can see James being considered an option for Brisbane as Mulvey is a big fan of his talents. While he’s no guarantee to get more game time here in Brisbane, he is struggling to cement a starting birth in the Jets midfield and his career has stagnated since the demise of the Gold Coast. Brown, 23, has made 54 appearances in the A-League with 9 goals and has played for Australia at all junior levels. Midfield isn’t necessarily a position of need, however should one of the starters move abroad and a spot opens up, he might be a good option to look at.

David Williams:
Brisbane have tried to sign Williams before, with the versatile attacker opting to head south to the Heart for playing time following the demise of the Fury, and it should surprise no-one if they head in that direction again. He’d be a perfect fit in the Brisbane system, however the question would be about fitting him in the salary cap. The 25 year old Brisbane born attacker with 90 A-League games to his credit would be a solid fit, however there are other areas of need which would take priority.

Shane Smeltz:
The conventional wisdom is that if Berisha decided to move on, that Brisbane head overseas to find a replacement, but the German born Kiwi international might be a shrewd acquisition. Smeltz, 32, is still amongst the leagues best strikers and with his connections in South East Queensland he may fancy a move back. Personally id prefer to go to Europe and target a player in his mid 20’s, but it wouldn’t be the worst move, and it would save a foreign spot with Smeltz holding an Australian passport.

Chris Harold:
While a starting striker is the #1 priority on the recruitment front, one of the criticisms of the squad is that there is a lack of striking options in the squad. Currently the back-up striker duties are held down by Henrique and Yeboah, however neither are natural #9’s and Harold had great success at youth level in Mulvey’s system. The 21 year old has 47 games to his credit (5 goals) and could be an attainable option for depth in the front third.

There’s plenty of others that could be considered in addition to the above four, however again while players like Hersi, Flores, Mooy and Topor-Stanley may be quality players at this level, they would unlikely be able to fit into the salary cap. Brisbane also has two foreign spots to play with which makes foreign recruitment a possibility- however one of those spots is surely allocated to Berisha/replacement striker, and they may not be able to fit a 5th visa player into the salary cap.


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