British owner would want contribution towards signing Jamaican icon
Usain Bolt, fresh from France following his promotional work for a new Champagne, is back in training with Australian top-flight team Central Coast Mariners.
The eight-time Olympic sprint champion, who has set his goal on playing professional football, is on an indefinite trial with the side based 50 miles from Sydney.
Owner Mike Charlesworth, a British millionaire, has few reservations about signing the 32-year-old Jamaican icon – but has hinted that he would want a contribution from the Football Federation Australia (FFA) to go ahead.
London-based Charlesworth, who gave the green light for today’s loan signing of Ross McCormack from Championship side Aston Villa, has seen the much-publicised arrival of Bolt boast the club’s profile and attract 10,000 spectators to a friendly.
Yet Bolt has made just one appearance in pre-season friendlies, kicking off his career Down Under with an indifferent 18-minute substitute role against an amateur outfit.
Charlesworth, who surprisingly claims that Bolt turned down lucrative offers in other countries to pursue his dream of playing in the Australian A-League, said: “He came here because he likes the lifestyle. Over 350 million people globally have read about him and his hopes of playing in the A-League.
“We’re not putting a timeline on how long he will be with us. But if a contract offer is forthcoming, we have an expectancy that the FFA will contribute. As would be the case with any marketable player, they will want a level of credibility – which of course we do too.”
With rumours that Bolt would be expecting to earn US$2.2m a season-long contract, then Charlesworth wants the FFA to contribute around US$0.65m.
Charlesworth added: “The FFA want to look at Bolt closely before investing, and we’re the same. Of course the FFA would want to capitalise, but they won’t do that until they know he’s up to the level.”
Yet it is Bolt’s impact off the pitch that is turning heads after he looked off the pace in his friendly run-out last month.
Understandably the FFA appear to be in no hurry to get the stellar signing over the line in time for next month’s season opener.
Charlesworth explained that this is not just a publicity stunt:” We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t feel he had a realistic chance of making the grade.
“There’s one thing that’s not in doubt – and that’s his commitment. He’s here for the long haul, and we’ll give him every opportunity to succeed.
“Hopefully it gets to the point where coach Mike Mulvey says to us he wants him – but it’s his decision ultimately.”
However, the lucrative contract will ruffle a few feathers within the A-League and no-nonsense coach Mulvey won’t be pushed into signing the veteran unless he can contribute on the pitch.
Bolt has his work cut out under former A-League winner Mulvey, installed this term to turn around the club’s fortunes after they finished rock bottom in the 10-team league last term with just four wins from 27 matches.
Bolt, employed in defence, will be aiming to be part of Mulvey’s sweeping changes to his squad that include Mali international Kalifa Cisse and Burnley loanee Aiden O’Neill.
Mulvey, 55, said: “Any player I ever sign I always ask them ‘Do you want to win some things?’ Some will say yes, but you see the people who really want to win things.”
The good news for Bolt is that he is undoubtedly a born winner, and his dogged determination to compete at the highest level in club football remains his dream. If he can improve his fitness required in the sport and hone his technical skills then he has a shot at playing in the top flight.
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