The chances of Sydney FC signing a high-profile guest player this summer have taken a blow after the club failed to sign former England international Peter Crouch in the January transfer window, citing financial requirements as one reason.
The sight of the 2.03m striker celebrating a goal at Moore Park with his famous robot dance in a Sydney FC jersey would provide a much-needed boost for the A-League but clubs are struggling to justify such an outlay for minimal financial return.
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Fairfax Media understands the club made an attempt to make him a guest player for the remainder of the season but would not have likely been able to meet his asking price. The 34-year-old is on the outer at English Premier League club Stoke City having made just six appearances in all competitions this season and was reportedly made available to other clubs.
Sydney enquired but never got to the stage of discussing personal terms with the former Tottenham, Liverpool, QPR and Portsmouth star. His reluctance to leave England with a six-month-old child was one reason, while the club was unlikely to be able to justify paying such a hefty fee for a striker midway through the season.
Football Federation Australia and Fox Sports are desperate for clubs to boost interest in the competition with high-profile guest players but clubs are less enthusiastic midway through the season with most revenue streams near exhausted. Clubs are eager to give fans the opportunity to watch big name players play in the A-League but feel it is only financially viable making such signings before the start of the season when they can gain a return.
"Commercially it's got to make sense with the right player. It's very hard to get your money back in January when all your memberships are sold, sponsorship deals are done and everyone's bought their merchandise. The only thing is gate revenue and that's not going to cut it when you're spending a million bucks. You've got to try and make the commercial aspect work as well," Sydney FC chief executive Tony Pignata said. "All you're relying on is ticket sales and half of the remaining 14 games are away so you don't get much revenue."
Sydney are in the hunt for a striker this transfer window and having failed to convert half-a-dozen or more chances against Melbourne City on Saturday night, it is no wonder why. The club still has approximately $250,000 available within the salary cap and prefers to sign a player within the allocated space. The club has filled its allocation of five foreign players so unless any depart in January, that signing would have to be an Australian player.
Giorgios Samaras is another player being shopped around to A-League clubs with Central Coast Mariners leading the race for his signature. The 81-time Greek international and former Celtic and Manchester City striker is emerging as a strong candidate as a guest player in the A-League given he holds an Australian passport and would not occupy one of the five visa-player spots. His father was born in Melbourne.
It is understood Samaras would cost between $350,000 and $400,000 for the remainder of the season with the Mariners understood to have sought some assistance from the FFA to sign him for that period.
Sydney are also monitoring his situation and while only 30 years old, there are major concerns about his fitness. Samaras has not played professionally since March last year meaning he would likely require several matches just to reach the level of conditioning required in the A-League.
Samaras' stint with Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal was cut short due to a hip injury and he has not played for his national team since a Euro 2016 qualifier against Northern Ireland in October 2014.