Uncertain future: Federico Piovaccari could be on the move. Photo: Brendon ThorneDespite coach Tony Popovic playing down the rumours, the Western Sydney Wanderers are prepared to part with their marquee striker Federico Piovaccari – but only if he finds a new club before the end of the transfer window.
The unhappy marriage between the Wanderers and the Italian striker has failed to produce the goals Popovic’s side craves and the manager made his feelings clear again during the 2-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night.
Mark Bridge was again preferred as the lone striker to Piovaccari, the 31-year old not even finding a spot on the bench despite Popovic later confirming he was fit and available.
With just a week to go until the transfer window ends, Piovaccari’s representatives will be looking to find the striker a new deal elsewhere, most likely in Europe, where his value remains high. He most recently scored six goals in 30 matches for La Liga side Eibar last season.
Despite a pedigree that suggested the Wanderers had made an astute choice, with clubs such as Inter Milan and Sampdoria previously signing him, Piovaccari has never looked at home with the pace of the A-League.
It is thought the Wanderers’ deal with Piovacarri is worth at least $500,000 per season – potentially higher – meaning the Wanderers could use that money on another attacker.
They could even make a bid for a player such as Tommy Oar, recently released by Ipswich, although a traditional number nine would seem the logical choice.
While Bridge has seldom played as a striker at the Wanderers, Popovic has used him there to great effect this season, with the forward bagging six goals and keeping Piovaccari out of the side.
But the real killer for the Italian is the return of Brendon Santalab, a long-time favourite of Popovic for his work-rate and impact off the bench, relegating Piovaccari to third choice.
However, if the striker cannot find a new home, it’s understood he will stay with the club as they are reluctant to pay out his contract early.
At least publicly, Popovic has issued a challenge for Piovaccari to fight for his spot on the training field.
“He’s fit but I went with a different 17 players [against Central Coast]. It’s up to him. It’s up to him to work his way back into the team this week,” Popovic said. “It was a choice of players we had available. We have a good squad with a lot of players fighting for positions. We’re on top at the moment, and everyone wants to be a part of it.
“There will be players who are disappointed and are left out. This week it’s ‘Pio’, whether it’s next week or not, we’ll have to wait and see.”
While other clubs have been busily making moves throughout the window, Popovic says the strength of his squad means changes aren’t required – although he’s open to a good deal.
“At the moment, we’re content. But these windows are always tricky,” he said. “Every club gets players put forward. Whether you’ve got a full roster or not, you’ll always get players put forward. But we’re not actively searching for anyone. That window will come and go and we’ll move on.”
Victory over the Mariners sent the Wanderers back to the top of the table and while the coach usually dismisses the importance of the table, he’s clearly happy to resume first place.
“I’m pleased for the players that they’re there and on merit,” he said. “I think their football has shown throughout the year that they deserve to be close to the top. For now, we’re on top, but we’ve seen there’s a long way to go. It’s a position we’d love to retain but there’s a lot of hard work ahead.”
Popovic has a tough decision at selection for next Friday’s match against Melbourne City, with Jonathan Aspropotamitis’s brilliant display against Central Coast meaning usual centre-half and captain, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, is no guarantee to resume after suspension.
“He’s a fantastic player and that’s why we gave him a two-year deal,” Popovic said .”We have high hopes for him. He’s a really calm young man, which he showed in last year’s Asian Champions League. He’s just not flustered who he’s up against.”
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