SHINJI ONO and another foreign marquee player could be on their way to Parramatta Stadium after the FFA and rival club owners announced that Western Sydney Wanderers are free to sign two foreign players outside of the regular quota.
The Joint A-League Strategic Committee has given the green light for the Wanderers to have seven foreign players in their squad throughout their first two seasons. The concession has been brought in only days before the new season kicks off to help ensure the Wanderers will be competitive during their infancy.
''The Joint A-League Strategic Committee adopted a position which was put to the FFA board and subsequently ratified that Western Sydney Wanderers FC could receive concessions to their foreign player quota for the club to recruit up to seven foreign players for their first two seasons,'' a FFA spokesman said.
''All Hyundai A-League stakeholders including FFA, the clubs, our broadcast partner, sponsors and fans would agree that the success of Western Sydney Wanderers FC is strategically important to the growth of the game.''
The newcomers fulfilled the standard quota of five visa players earlier this month and are still one player short of the required minimum of 20 players. But, with two marquee positions still available and now granted the additional foreign player spots, they will be free to secure deals with Japanese star Ono and another overseas player.
The 33-year-old former Japanese international is set to leave J-League club Shimizu S-Pulse after falling out with coach Afshin Ghotbi and is attracted by a move to Western Sydney. Former German captain Michael Ballack, who has been linked with the club, is opting for a move abroad after leaving Bayer Leverkusen and is keen on joining the Wanderers but must first overcome hurdles such as wage demands, third-party payments and fitness concerns.
Meanwhile, Wanderers executive chairman Lyall Gorman has hinted that the club is also in pursuit of former Socceroos. The Wanderers will be looking to add depth to their slim midfield stocks and could snap up free agents Vince Grella and Jason Culina, who is training with Sydney FC. ''We've always said that there's room for the right player, if the right player comes along,'' Gorman said. ''Don't think that has to be a foreign player, there are plenty of local options. At some stage there are [Australian] players who will want to come back to the A-League.''
The Wanderers also must add one more player under the age of 21 to fulfil the minimum squad requirements ahead of the A-League season and will sign one of their youth triallists within the coming days.