With a new Socceroos coach yet to be appointed ahead of the World Cup finals, there’s still time for a number of fringe Socceroos players to state their claim for a spot in the squad which travels to Russia.
But time is of the essence, particularly for those who are facing the prospect of limited game time with their domestic clubs. Apart from the obvious case of veteran striker Tim Cahill who sensationally walked out of his A-League club Melbourne City, there are fringe players such as Chris Ikonomidis and Apostolos Giannou who still harbour dreams of playing in the World Cup finals, but who’ll most likely need to find a new club soon where they can get more game time.
Twenty-two-year-old winger Ikonomidis has six Socceroo caps. He’s been on the books at Serie A club Lazio since 2013 but has had limited game time, apart from two loan spells to Serie B club Salernitana and Danish club AFG. He comes out of contract at the end of the current season at Lazio, which may prompt an earlier move in search of game time.
Striker Giannou, 28, has five senior Socceroo caps to his name which came after an international tug of war between Australia and Greece for his services. However since his last Socceroos appearance in October 2016 against Japan, he has fallen out of favour replaced by Tommy Juric.
Giannou would presumably still be in the frame if he was scoring regularly for his club, Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F FC. But since his move there in 2016, he has played 29 games and scored seven goals. With the season just past, he played fewer games, as coach Dragan Stojkovic prefered Israeli striker Eran Zahavi who had a stellar season winning the CSL 2017 Player of the Year and scoring at will.
Whilst Zahavi continues to be in such dominating form, Giannou’s opportunities at the club appear limited, and his position may be even more tenuous after rule changes reduced the number of foreign players at each club from five to four for the coming season.
Apart from the problem of finding more game time in the crucial months leading up to the world cup, Giannou faces the additional burden of a legal wrangle involving his management, Melbourne based FIA Sports Management.
According to a midweek report in the Herald Sun, FIA is suing Giannou, seeking unspecified damages, interest and costs. FIA claims that Giannou is refusing to pay them $1.25 million in commission, it says the player owes them for their alleged help in organising a lucrative three year deal (reportedly worth $ 11 million), when he signed with his current club Guangzhou R&F FC.
In a writ filed in the Supreme Court, FIA claimed that Giannou signed a two year deal with FIA in 2015 and also claimed that under the agreement it had exclusive rights to negotiate a transfer to an Asian club from his then Greek club Asteras Tripoli.