Wellington Phoenix have locked down just five players for next season but coach Mark Rudan says he is not concerned by the lack of player retention, despite the fact most of the club’s best players remain on the market.
“Players will do their own thing in their own time. They are big boys and they are professionals as well. We are fully focussed on this season and whatever happens afterwards happens,” he said.
So far Steven Taylor, Alex Rufer and Louis Fenton are the only players to have signed improved contracts for the 2019-20 season, while promising youngsters Liberato Cacace and Sarpreet Singh were already on long-term deals when Rudan arrived.
That leaves a total of 15 players off-contract at the end of the A-League campaign including Golden Boot leader Roy Krishna, who is undoubtably the highest priority to retain. Not only is Krishna in the form of his life, scoring a career-high 15 goals this season, but he is now a New Zealand citizen and no longer counts as an import which makes him even more valuable to the Phoenix as they would struggle to replace that production with a New Zealand or Australian player.
“There’s other clubs in the same situation as us, it’s that time of the year that everyone has to deal with it in their own way and we’re dealing with it in our own way. Everyone understands the importance of Roy Krishna and what he brings to the football club. It’s not about the ball is in his court, it’s just not something we comment on. He knows the situation and we want him here so that’s all I can say. The focus is about the season.”
But while there appears to be no rush in locking players down to new contracts, Stuff understands some off-contract players are holding out to see whether Rudan himself will be at the club next season before they commit to new deals. Although Rudan has a contract for next season, he has been heavily linked to a move to expansion club Western United.
While he has not publicly commented on the Western United job, Rudan has openly stated that he misses his family and will not continue to coach Phoenix if they remain living in Sydney next season.
Rudan has also challenged the club’s owners to invest more in the Phoenix, with a centre of excellence and improved training facilities high on his wish list. While he declined comment further on his future in an interview with Stuff last week, it is understood another one of Rudan’s requests is to make Krishna a marquee player.