Friday, February 11, 2011
Coast clear Culina to look elsewhere
By Guy Hand
Socceroo Jason Culina looks set for a dream link-up with his coaching father Branko at the Newcastle Jets next season.Culina has been given permission by current A-League club Gold Coast United to negotiate elsewhere - United effectively offering to tear up the final year of his three-year deal as their marquee player.And the Jets appear best placed in what is likely to be a hotly-contested race to secure arguably the league's best player for next season.The 30-year-old is a current starting 11 Socceroo, and has played more than 50 times for his country.But the Jets - buoyed by the investment this season of racehorse and mining magnate Nathan Tinkler - have both the financial and personal inside running.As well as becoming the club's Australian marquee player, his signing would also be a reunion of father and son.Jason got his start in senior football as a teenager under Branko 15 years ago in the National Soccer League with Sydney United.Gold Coast chief executive Clive Mensink said the club wanted to keep Culina.But while confirming they would allow him permission to look elsewhere, Mensink said there was an opportunity for the Coast - also backed by a megarich mining baron in Clive Palmer - to bring in a new big-name should he depart."There's no doubt he's a quality player but we've got to move on and think ahead if he does decide to leave," Mensink said."It gives the club the opportunity to see what other players are in the market."There are a lot of top players out there who would be very useful to the Gold Coast set-up."We can dig deep, do some good new research and bring some excitement back to the Gold Coast."Culina's father Branko was coy about the prospect of his son being signed by the Jets, who have also been linked recently with Manchester United and England striker Michael Owen."Since I've been here people have said `when's Jason going to come? Bring your son here'," he said."It's not that simple ... but Newcastle will be looking to strengthen its squad for next year and we will be after some quality players."Cashed-up J-League, K-League and Chinese Super League clubs would also be interested in Culina, who is understood to be on more than $1 million a season at Gold Coast.A-League side Melbourne Heart will also clear plenty of high-priced stars at the end of the season - including both marquee players in the retiring Josip Skoko and Gerald Sibon.That gives the Heart the sort of cash able to attract a player of Culina's calibre.