Wanderers to back themselves to sign the right foreign players

Western Sydney Wanderers have narrowed down a list of players from which they aim to sign four foreigners to replace end-of-season departures Alberto, Andreu, Romeo Castelen and Federico Piovaccari.

Popovic

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One thing the Wanderers can never be accused of doing is wasting time, and The World Game understands the process of identifying the right foreign players for next season began well ahead of last season ending.

The departures of the four "visa" players, as well as Golgol Mebrahtu, Matt Sim and Liam Reddy, have only been announced in the wake of Western Sydney losing the grand final 3-1 to Adelaide United last Sunday week.

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But most of the decisions had been made well ahead of the season ending and the bid to sign new players has begun in earnest.

Much of the Wanderers' success in qualifying for three grand finals in their four years of existence has been built on finding the right foreign players to mix in with the locals that make up the bulk of the squad.

There have been a few misses among the many hits. Italian striker Piovaccari, for instance, was signed as a marquee player amid great fanfare, but for whatever reason he couldn't give Western Sydney what they wanted, and was dropped for good midway through the season.

But players like Shinji Ono, Mateo Poljak, Youssouf Hersi, Iacopo La Rocca and Jerome Polenz, all first-year signings, and more recently Castelen, Alberto, Andreu and Dimas have been instrumental in helping to keep the ball rolling.

They don't tend to stay at the club for too long, though. Two years seems to be a good run and The World Game understands that is as much because the Wanderers refuse to get involved in bidding wars to re-sign foreign players once they have made names for themselves in the A-League.

Western Sydney prefer to back themselves to find the same quality of players, mostly in Europe, for the right price all over again and their success rate ultimately remains high.

It was obvious for a long time the club wasn't going to re-sign Piovaccari, who earned $750,000 for his failed season.

Winger Castelen wowed the crowd with three goals in the Wanderers' 5-4 comeback win over Brisbane Roar in the semi-final, but a decision had been made on him before that.

Although he came up with a few goals towards the end of the season, Castelen's overall ratio of goals scored compared to shots taken was low and it was felt that, at 33, and with his fierce running style of play hard on the body, his time at the club had run its course.

So there weren't serious negotiations to re-sign him, particularly when he was an expensive player to start with - even under the salary cap.

Western Sydney did negotiate with Spaniards Alberto and Andreu, but those negotiations fizzled out once it was clear there was unlikely to be any agreement met. The club had already re-signed its other Spaniard, Dimas, a couple of months back.

Mebrahtu has missed a lot of games through injury in recent years and although the club persevered with him for a while, eventually they had to make a decision on whether he was the right sort of long-term prospect for them. Hopefully, he will get a chance at another A-League club.

Former Central Coast Mariners player Sim was signed mid-season as a back-up player to bolster the squad and was always at long odds to get a contract for next season.

Reddy similarly was signed mid-season after splitting with the Mariners. He sat on the bench for a while before finally getting a chance when Andrew Redmayne was dropped, but then Reddy was omitted himself and Redmayne saw the season out.

The view at the Wanderers is that, out of those two at least, Redmayne won the battle. Now it remains to be seen whether a back-up to Redmayne is signed, or if any high-profile goalkeepers become available that may tickle the club's fancy, but there is no hurry to sign another goalkeeper at this stage.

Western Sydney are also understood to be interested in Australia midfielder Josh Brillante, who has recently been playing with Como in Italy's Serie B.

But the main consideration at present is to sign the right foreigners and with Tony Popovic being the sort of coach who likes to put his players through a very physical off-season preparation, he will ideally want the new players on deck in time for that.

While Spaniards have recently served the Wanderers well, the club could try their luck with players of that nationality again, but they have never been a club to lock themselves into a particular type.

All we should expect is that Western Sydney will begin to announce new signings sooner rather than later.


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5 min read
Published 10 May 2016 at 7:32pm
By Greg Prichard