Arnold warns of European pitfalls for young stars

Bernie Ibini's experience should serve as a warning to young players that a contract in Europe or Asia doesn't automatically equate to happily ever after, Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold says.


Bernie Ibini is now back to full fitness Source: AAP

Arnold has always been one to encourage promising young players to make careers for themselves overseas, just as he did as a player, but he warned that the potential pitfalls couldn't be ignored.

He said the vastly greater amounts of money in the game overseas and the much bigger squads meant that if unforeseen circumstances, such as major injury, affected a player's transition they could quickly drop way down the pecking order and not get the full support required.

It is now 16 months since Ibini sustained a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments when tackled in his very first training session with Club Brugge in Belgium.

Arnold is anticipating Ibini finally making a comeback off the bench in the FFA Cup semi-final against Canberra Olympic at Viking Park on Wednesday night, but it has been a very long road.

The coach said that when Ibini returned to Sydney FC after signing for the club towards the end of July he was way behind where he should have been with his recovery - but through no fault of his own.

"Two months ago he couldn't walk down the steps, his ankle was that locked up," Arnold said. "He couldn't run properly, but in two months he has worked really hard with our medical staff.

"I can clearly say Australia's sports science, Australia's medical way of treating the players is up there with the US as the best in the world.

"Here in Australia, especially with the salary cap system, you have to take care of every player.

"Overseas they've got so many players and there's that much money in it, with no salary cap, they can just treat them like cattle. In or out, if you're unable to play bring someone else in."

Arnold said Ibini's talent may have been overlooked in Belgium, but now that he's back to full fitness he's hopeful he will be back to his attacking best.

"Bernie went to a big club in Belgium and he had a lot of choices, probably, but he hadn't proven himself overseas. They didn't really know what he could do, so he wasn't a big fish," Arnold said.

"When he came back here he was busted. The medical side of things over there is nowhere near what we have in Australia.

"He hadn't kicked a ball for a year, but now he's running freely, he's doing everything."

Arnold pointed to other young players who had starred in the A-League and then gone to Europe only to have major setbacks which interrupted their development for a length of time that probably could've been shorter.

"Marco Rojas, he went away and got injured, didn't get treated properly and couldn't get back to his best form, because they've got squads of 30, 40 players and most of the Aussie boys who go over there don't go for big money," he said.

"Look at Tommy Rogic. When he first went to Celtic he was back at Melbourne Victory in no time. His groin was stuffed, couldn't go to the World Cup.

"It's similar in Asia, you don't get anything like the medical side of what you get here in Australia."

Now that Ibini is back to full fitness, Arnold says that over the course of the season he is going to prove a huge plus for the Sky Blues.

"I've got plenty of good options up front at the moment and you'll see that against Canberra tomorrow night," he said.

"(Alex) Brosque has to play and Bobo will play and (Filip) Holosko will play and (David) Carney will play, but on the bench I'll have (Matt) Simon and (Milos) Ninkovic and Ibini.

"So there are plenty of options going forward in attack and the players who are starting are aware these other ones are on the bench and that they're coming for them."

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4 min read
Published 18 October 2016 at 5:10pm
By Greg Prichard