He was a player who was thrilling to watch when on form.
Central Coast Mariners will unveil a major new signing at the club’s training base in Tuggerah today. They’ll be the latest of the championship contenders dipping into the transfer market to try and find a way to catch runaway leaders Brisbane Roar.
A little under two months ago I wrote on The Roar that Brisbane’s on-field benchmark was good for the evolution of the standard of play in the A-League. Clubs would have to strive to keep up with them, or be left behind.
That piece came days after Brisbane defeated second-placed Adelaide United 4-0, drawing the praise of the Reds’ Dutch boss Rini Coolen who said the Roar’s level of football belonged in Europe.
Coincidentally, this piece comes just days after Brisbane defeated the Reds, this time 1-0 at Hindmarsh Stadium with a depleted side.
All the talk after the game has been the Roar’s method is the key to their success. Even without key midfielders Thomas Broich and Matt McKay, as well as standout full-back Ivan Franjic they were too good for second-placed Adelaide.
Coolen will be scratching his head as to how to stop the Roar, who have incredibly gone 19 matches unbeaten now.
It’s truly staggering stuff to believe how consistent this Brisbane side have been, especially in the A-League which is designed to present a level playing field where any one side can beat another on any given day.
But back to Coolen, he said his side lacked the cutting edge in the final third to beat the Roar on the weekend. He also said that’s the reason why he’s dabbled into the transfer market this January, purchasing three imports with attacking quality.
Indeed, Coolen isn’t alone in dipping into the transfer market.
The third-placed Mariners will announce their latest signing today, while the fourth-placed Gold Coast have just welcomed German midfielder Peter Perchtold to town with a guest stint on the cards, while they’ve also been strongly linked with former A-League Golden Boot winner Shane Smeltz.
Fifth-placed Melbourne Victory have signed former club star Danny Allsopp after a stint abroad, while the improving Newcastle Jets have added Ryan Griffiths from China.
Finals-challengers Wellington have been linked with Joel Griffiths, while even struggling Sydney FC has seen fit to bolster their attacking options with Finnish marksman Juho Makela.
The number of new January signings is unprecedented in the A-League. In fact, usually it goes the other way and it wasn’t long ago many A-League players were heading for Asia in their droves.
Curiously, the only player to do that in recent times was Brisbane striker Reinaldo and the club interestingly seem to have elected not to replace him.
They do have Jean Carlos Solorzano and Kosta Barbarouses scoring goals, but are they short one forward? Would a new signing disrupt team harmony? These are interesting questions but it appears Brisbane coach Ange Postecoglou is content with what he’s got. After all, it appears the method is getting the job done.
On the other hand, of all the clubs dipping into the transfer market it appears second-placed Adelaide have done the best.
They’ve lured a six-time Dutch international in Andy Slory, a current promising Costa Rica international in Diego Estrada and a former Uruguay youth international in Francisco Usucar. On paper it appears they’ve done very, very well, but how will they fit into the system. Can they work with Marcos Flores? Will they disrupt harmony?
There’s elements of a gamble to it by Coolen, but he’s short on answers, particularly after the weekend’s defeat to the Roar.
It’s obvious his connections have helped lure these players to Australia. But he’s also asked club management to give him the resources to bring these players to Australia and for them to agree is a bit of a rarity for the A-League.
But, of course, Coolen and the Reds are searching for answers to stop the Roar and they feel improving their own stocks is the best way to do that.
It appears so do a host of other clubs, with new signings galore.
Essentially that shows a bit of ambition from A-League clubs – driven by Brisbane’s dominance – which is an excellent sign for the competition as we head into the final third of the campaign.
Whether or not it’ll be enough to beat the runaway leaders in the finals is a question we’ll have to wait and see, but that’s suddenly an exciting and curious prospect.
All this transfer activity certainly provides a refreshing amount of excitement to the league for fans of all clubs, including the Roar (who’ll be looking over their shoulders), along with the neutrals (if anything just to see some new imports in action).
And that can only be a positive thing for the A-League, as the competition heats up towards the conclusion of the season when it should be shining at its brightest.