A-League’s Best and Worst signings of the season

A-League

With 2 rounds to go in the regular season and the Premiership all sewn up its time to have a look at the best and worst signings of the season.  Historically A-League clubs have had some great successes in signing players (Thomas Broich, Alessandro Del Piero, Dwight Yorke) but there’s also been some spectacular failures (Brian Deane, Mario Jardel, Shengqing Qu) so without further ado here’s this season Best and Worst signings.

BEST

10. Sidnei – Perth Glory

In a desperately poor season by Perth Glory where the vast majority of the squad have underperformed massively, the signing of Brazilian import Sidnei has been one shining light.  Signed from Cypriot side Alki Larnaca this fast and tricky winger has been one of the only attacking outlets for this Perth side and his side have too often looked to him to create something.  He has managed to score 2 goals from playing a wide position and is 5th overall in total number of crosses delivered.  He was rewarded mid-way through the season for his stellar efforts with a new contract that will keep him in Perth for a few more seasons and doesn’t Perth need more players like him.

9. Dimi Petratos – Brisbane Roar

After a failed stint at Sydney FC, Petratos headed off to the Malaysian League to regain some confidence and belief and hasn’t this proved to be the right move.  Petratos trialled for Brisbane in the off-season and coach Mike Mulvey liked what he saw and signed the winger to a 1-year deal.  At first Petratos found it tough to break into a settled team, that was performing well, but some injuries gave him his chance and he hasn’t looked back.  His rise to form started in the festive season with a string of excellent performances capped off by a stunning hat-trick against his former club, Sydney FC and the Young Player of the Month award to boot.  He is now an important attacking weapon in a side filled with class and has contributed 4 goals and is 8th in the league in total shots for the season.  He has been given a new multi-year contract with the Roar and no doubt he’ll enjoy showing Sydney what they missed out on for years to come.

8. Nikola Petkovic – Sydney FC

Petkovic signed for Sydney FC late on in the pre-season but his class and experience were telling from the start.  The big Serb, who was signed from his native Red Star Belgrade, has been an influential figure at the heart of the Sydney defence and has been an ever-present figure in a team that big things are always expected of.  He is equally adept at stopping an opponent’s attacking forays as he is at starting his own team’s attack with a direct ball out of the backline, a fact evidenced by he being placed 7th in the league at both Total Passes and Clearances.  Sydney will be relying on Petkovic’s quality if they are to compete for higher honours as the season winds down.

7. Orlando Engelaar – Melbourne Heart

Engelaar was signed as Melbourne Heart’s marquee player for this season and they don’t come as well credentialed as the giant Dutchman with his 14 caps for Holland plus stints at PSV, Schalke and Twente.  The Heart were planning on building their team around Engelaar this season but disaster struck in a pre-season friendly against Brisbane when an innocuous challenge by Thomas Broich broke Engelaar’s leg in 2 places and ruled him out for the first half of the season.  A lesser man may ended his overseas adventure there and returned home to the comforts of family and friends but Engelaar stuck it out and worked hard at his recovery (even training with a local Aussie Rules club as they had better facilities than his own club) and he made a comeback earlier than expected.  He came back at a low point in the club’s history, when they had equalled the worst ever start by a side, but Engelaar made an immediate impact and his barnstorming midfield performances propelled his team off the bottom of the table.  His 4 goals have all been belters and none better than last week’s effort from beyond the halfway line.  He has been compared to Yaya Toure and no doubt new club owners Manchester City will be keen to keep Engelaar at the Heart for years to come.

6. Kenny Cunningham – Wellington Phoenix

Despite not even being the best Costa Rican signing in the league this season Kenny Cunningham has had an excellent first season with Wellington Phoenix. Cunningham, who has 10 caps for Costa Rica, was signed from Bolivian side The Strongest at the recommendation of new team mate Carlos Hernandez, and his lightning speed and mazy dribbling has lit up wet and windy Wellington this season.  His figures for this season read 14 games, 7 goals, 4 assists and 7 yellow cards which highlight his all-action nature.

5. Sergio Cirio – Adelaide United

Signed as part of the Spanish Armada that hit Adelaide United in the off-season, former Barcelona youth player Cirio has been instrumental in his side playing arguably the best football in the league this season.  The attacking player was signed from Spanish lower league side Hospitalet and after taking a while to find his feet has hit a rich vein of form to score 8 goals from his 20 appearances this season.  It’s been his link up play with fellow Latino players Marcelo Carrusca and Isaias that has sent tongues wagging at Hindmarsh Stadium and if manager Josep Gombau keeps his promise of turning Adelaide in a Down Under version of Barcelona you’d figure that Cirio will be central to his plans.

4. Isaias – Adelaide United

The aforementioned Spanish midfielder Isaias was signed by Adelaide Utd from his native Espanyol as another Barcelona product to lead the Adelaide revolution.  Isaias has been central to all that has been good about Adelaide Utd this season with his dynamism in the middle of the park often being the fulcrum for his team’s bountiful attacking raids.  Manager Josep Gombau described Isaias as his ‘foot soldier’ and his work in the trenches has resulted in him being 2nd overall in Total Passes this season. He’s been a real gem of a find by Gombau which may yet bring a trophy to Adelaide.

3. Matt McKay – Brisbane Roar

An old new signing for Brisbane this season with prodigal son Matt McKay returning after 2 largely unsuccessful seasons abroad with Rangers, Busan I-Park and Changchun Yattai.  Keen to stay in the National Team spotlight ahead of the World Cup McKay didn’t think twice when his former club came knocking in the off-season and he signed a 2-year deal.  It was no surprise then when he immediately hit the ground running and his midfield energy and running saw Brisbane hit the front early on and were never headed.  He immediately restored midfield chemistry with the likes of Thomas Broich and Luke Brattan and sits 4th overall in Assists and 10th in Total Passes.  For Brisbane just having McKay back patrolling their midfield has given the whole team a lift after their difficulties last season and surely McKay’s performances will have him on a plane to Brazil come the end of this season.

2. Carlos Hernandez – Wellington Phoenix

‘King’ Carlos was reunited his former Melbourne Victory boss Ernie Merrick at Wellington Phoenix this season after having answered the SOS call to return to the A-League from his spell in India.  After initial doubts about his motivation and weight were put at ease Hernandez instantly returned to his marauding best for a struggling Wellington outfit.  Through Hernandez’s ability to change games Wellington eventually found some form mid-season and his understanding with compatriot Kenny Cunningham was a key driver to this.  Hernandez has been simply unstoppable in games this season with some magnificent solo goals in his tally of 6 for the season so far.  He only trails the classy German Thomas Broich in the Assists tally with 8 so far and also sits in 2nd place in Key Passes and 3rd for Total Shots.  Hernandez has regained his reputation as one of the A-League’s finest ever imports with his efforts this season and if Merrick can fire him up again next season better things will be expected from Wellington.

1. James Troisi – Melbourne Victory

The one time golden boy of Australian football, Troisi has reignited his career with his performances for Melbourne Victory this season.  Troisi left Australia in his late teens to sign for Newcastle United and then continued his development in Turkey and then Italian side Atalanta. It was Atalanta who loaned Troisi to Melbourne for this season and he has surely placed them on alert with his performances.  His stats are incredible with his 25 games yielding 11 goals and 5 assists as well as being in the Top 10 in the league for Key Passes and Total Shots.  His efforts from midfield this season have saved Melbourne’s bacon on more than one occasion and he is an almost certainty to be going to Brazil with the Socceroos and hopefully we’ll see him starring in the Serie A next season.

WORST

5. Marcel Seip – Central Coast Mariners

Seip was bought into the Mariners from VVV Venlo as direct replacement for retiring club legend Patrick Zwaanswijk and despite being the same nationality this is where the similarities between the two end.  The retirement of Zwaanswijk left a big hole to fill and it was hoped that Seip, who on paper is a very similar player, could make a fist of this but it so far it has not ended up this way.  Seip clearly has struggled to live in the shadows of his predecessor and what once was a rock solid defensive unit has been anything but this season no part to Seip’s poor performances.  His 13 appearances so far have only yielded 2 clean sheets and where Zwaanswijk would contribute the odd goal and assist, Seip has achieved none. Despite signing a multi-year deal his future beyond this season is unclear as he’s often been forced to bear the ridicule of club fans on social media.

4. Marc Warren – Sydney FC

A relatively low key signing from Airdrie this former Australian youth international was signed to help plug a woeful Sydney defence from last season.  Unfortunately for Sydney and Warren his time so far has been marked by disastrous defensives performances that saw an average of 2 goals conceded whenever he was involved in a game.  He hasn’t been used since Round 15 in a sure sign of his ineptitude and surely his time at the club is limited.

3. Pablo Contreras –Melbourne Victory

Curiously Melbourne decided to use their Marquee spot on a 35 year old Chilean defender and I’m not sure anyone knows why!  Granted that Contreras has 67 caps for La Roja and was playing for Olympiacos before going to Melbourne but his performances have nowhere near justified his reported huge salary.  At times his age seems to have caught up with him this season and he has often been dreadfully out of place for goals that Melbourne have conceded and he has even had to admit that his body isn’t up to the task anymore and he’ll be retiring at season’s end.  He leads the league in Yellow cards despite only playing 17 games and regularly is not included in games that involve long haul travel due to his fragility – hardly a glowing endorsement from someone who is so well pedigreed.

2. William Gallas – Perth Glory

When your own club’s CEO says that he’s not sure why he signed you, you know that you’ve had a very poor season and this is what has happened to William Gallas.  A man that needs no introduction he joined Perth after the start of the season for one last adventure but unfortunately it’s turned into bit of a nightmare for this World Cup winner.  Age and lack of fitness have definitely caught up with him and Perth has conceded 19 goals in the 9 games he’s played in so far.  He also suffered the indignity of doing a double air-swing in conceding a comical goal against Melbourne Heart.  To his credit he did score a peach of a goal against Wellington and this is the only reason why someone else is in the #1 spot and not Monsieur Gallas.

1. Michael Mifsud – Melbourne Heart

The man dubbed the Mosquito has quietly buzzed right out of Melbourne even before the season has ended so woeful has his performances been.  Mifsud was signed with reasonable pedigree for this level, having had successful spells with Coventry and Lillestrom and it was hoped that the large Maltese community in Melbourne would support the Heart now that he was there.  Admittedly his time on the pitch coincided with a winless period for the Heart but their form since he was dropped from the team suggests that he may have been part of the problem.  He seemed to spend more time offside than doing anything productive and his final outlay of 1 goal in 14 appearances represents the worst return of his career.  He hasn’t been sighted since Round 15 and was last week released from his contract to return to family commitments in Malta and one suspects that players with an Insecta inspired nickname will be on the blacklist of every A-League club from here on in.

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