The A-League world was bolstered by two big headlines Thursday- the return of Socceroo Lucas Neill and the resigning of Sydney FC coach Frank Farina.
Melbourne Heart appear to have won out on the Neill sweepstakes after the Socceroo hero was released from his position with United Arab Emirates club Al Wasl last week. Frenchman Guy Lacombe was hired as a midseason coaching replacement by Al Wasl and he immediately began implementing changes of his own by bringing two high profile international recruits and leaving the club over their allocated import allowance. Neill was the odd man out and released after the European transfer window had closed, leaving the A-League as his best (and probably lone option).
The defending champion Brisbane Roar pulled out of the Neill sweepstakes a week ago, opting to sign Stef Nijland as their lone midseason transaction. It was a strange decision, but one that might be retracted after it was learnt on Wednesday that captain and central defender Matt Smith would miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
Melbourne became the frontrunner to acquire the 34-year-old’s services on Wednesday in a hope the big naming signing can push the club into a playoff position.
Neill offers an A-League club, albeit on a very short-term basis (expect him to head abroad again next season), an international level player capable of great defence and leadership.
On the back of some recent success courtesy of Italian superstar import Alessandro Del Piero, Sydney FC has locked in coach Frank Farina to an extension that will see him at the club until the end of next season.
Farina, and the health of Del Piero, has been responsible for Sydney’s late season resurgence- they’ve dragged themselves out of last place into playoff contention and have tallied 11 points from their past six games.
Farina's extension is significant due to Sky Blues' move to terminate the contract of Jason Culina last week after the player was involved in a physical confrontation with the coach.
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