Transfer rumours: Samaras for City, Maclaren in demand

Melbourne City have set their sights on a former Celtic star, Wellington Phoenix could resurrect the A-League career of an ex-Sydney FC young gun, while Jamie Maclaren is in big demand among the east coast clubs.

Hot on the heels of Josh Kennedy’s retirement, Melbourne City are in overdrive to secure an Australian marquee striker.

Scott McDonald and even Tomi Juric are in the frame but the player for whom MCFC are prepared to break the bank is former Celtic and Greece international Georgios Samaras, who qualifies as an Aussie courtesy of his Melbourne-born father. Still aged 30, Samaras was unhappy at Saudi Al-Hilal and has returned to West Bromwich Albion for pre-season training nursing a back complaint.

He isn’t wanted by coach Tony Pulis and his enormous following among Melbourne’s Greek community would have thousands of new fans flocking to City’s AAMI Park. Club owners are said to be pulling out all stops.

Former Sydney FC striker Blake Powell’s 20 goals for NPL powerhouse APIA Leichhardt Tigers have seen him catapult into A-League contention once again. The Central Coast Mariners are rumoured to be interested in his services but the most concrete offer to date comes from across the ditch, with Powell accepting Ernie Merrick’s invitation to join Wellington Phoenix for a two-match tour of Fiji.

Unfortunate to miss out on Sydney FC’s Italy tour in 2013 due to an untimely knee injury, Powell struggled to force his way back into the Sky Blue squad and by 2014 was effectively frozen out of the team by coach Frank Farina, who, a year on, was spotted keenly observing the friendly at Suva’s ANZ Stadium in his capacity as Head Coach of the Fiji Under-20 as football’s Six Degrees of Separation struck again.

Powell played in both matches and failed to get on the scoresheet but was involved in a number of good moves for the Phoenix and is said to have left a good impression on the former Victory coach. He now returns to APIA and will play his former club Sutherland Sharks at Seymour Shaw Park on July 11th.

Zeljko Kalac and Tony Popovic may be close friends, with their kids attending the same upmarket private school on Sydney’s lower North Shore but Kalac’s signing for the Wanderers is all about wayward talent Dean Bouzanis.

The goalkeeper Rafa Benitez once claimed was the best in the world for his age has a “party boy” reputation that precedes him and the former Socceroo is expected to crack the whip as he aims to duplicate his success with Sydney’s Vedran Janjetovic. The Australian youth international is in for a torrid time on the training paddock but has the chance to finally deliver on all that potential.

With Sydney FC allowing defender Nikola Petkovic to sign for Belgian club Westerlo amid rumours of player discontent, the name of Zac Anderson has once again cropped up as his former coach Graham Arnold looks to fill his squad’s final defensive position. The 2014 Cleo Bachelor of the Year nominee was released by the Mariners at the end of last season and has been linked with Adelaide United as Nigel Boogaard’s replacement but Anderson may be unable to resist the overtures of his former coach who had brought the best out of him in Gosford and is now building for Sydney FC’s busiest ever season.

As predicted, Perth Glory have finally released want-away stiker Jamie Maclaren, sparking a mad scramble for the talented striker’s services. A number of suitors have already thrown their hats into the ring, with east coast clubs leading the charge for the talented attacker who can play centrally or wide.

The Tim Cahill saga continues to rumble along as his club Shanghai Shenhua have once again gone to market, signing former Chelsea and Newcastle United striker Demba Ba on a record $23million deal. Ba joins the Chinese club alongside former Mali and Liverpool attacker Mohamed Sissoko, bringing the number of foreigners on Shanghai’s books to 7. Chinese Super League rules dictate that no more than 4 foreigners are allowed to take the field at any one time, including 1 player from the Asian Football Confederation. Cahill qualifies as an “Asian” player but his club’s new signings are hardly a ringing endorsement of the misfiring Socceroo attacker.

There is turmoil at Brisbane Roar, with player discontent at an all-time high. Owners Bakrie Group are billions of dollars in debt, the Coffee Club may yet pull their sponsorship deal while players and staff remain unpaid. As reported last week, a few Roar players are attempting to engineer moves away from the troubled club amid crisis talks behind the scenes.

And the rest...

Aaron Mooy is still a chance of an overseas deal…Tony Pignata’s time in Italy may be more than a holiday…The NYL may undergo some structural changes for the upcoming season…Mitch Nichols could make yet another A-League return…Tommy Oar will spurn the advances of FC Tokyo to remain in Europe…Billy Celeski is wanted by a number of A-League clubs…Middlesbrough’s unlucky Socceroo Rhys Williams – expected to make his return from a ruptured Achilles tendon in December – is in the early stages of his recovery and is set to begin light jogging as he builds towards yet another injury comeback.

Joao Pedro Watch

The promising Brazilian fullback has returned to Palmeiras following his national side’s runner-up placing in the Under 20 World Cup. This column will enjoy monitoring his progress and will report once the 18 year old makes what appears to be an inevitable European move.