Allessandro Del Piero is set to make his return to the starting line-up for Sydney FC in Saturday night's clash against the Newcastle Jets but the bigger question remains where he will end up next season.
The 38-year-old Italian has trained fully this week after battling a hamstring complaint that kept him out of the trip to Wellington a fortnight ago and restricted him to a role on the bench in the Sydney derby.
That means he'll almost certainly be ready for the journey north, one that could help the Sky Blues leap from last place to level on points with the Jets, who are sixth on 13 points.
However, there is more doubt over Pascal Bosschaart, who suffered a calf strain in the defeat against the Western Sydney Wanderers, and missed training.
If he's ruled out, Sebastian Ryall would most likely shift to centre-back and Rhyan Grant to right-back. Del Piero's inclusion could mean Blake Powell is moved back to the bench.
Captain Terry McFlynn is also fighting to get back in the team after missing the 2-0 loss to the Wanderers, but is expected to earn a recall after coach Frank Farina criticised the team for lacking heart in the derby defeat.
McFlynn said all players had been hurting but that Del Piero in particular would be looking to get back into the team and play a leading role in turning the season around.
''He's won everything in the game. Every competition he's entered since he was a kid, he's won it,'' McFlynn said. ''This is no different. He wants to win it and he sees this as something unfinished for him.''
Hours after Central Coast owner Peter Turnbull revealed his desire to unite Del Piero and David Beckham at Central Coast, Sydney FC chairman Scott Barlow was present at training and spent his time speaking with Del Piero's entourage.
Barlow said he expected negotiations to begin next month between the club and the player but reaffirmed that ''the club wants Alessandro to stay next season, and that Alessandro wants to stay in Sydney next season''.
McFlynn said it was no surprise to see the Mariners make a play to lure Del Piero away from Sydney given what the Italian had achieved in his first season in the A-League.
''He's a world-class footballer, and I think any football club in the world would have him, and we're just privileged and honoured to have him here,'' he said.
''He's a fantastic person and a great character, and for everyone at this football club, from the management to the players, we learn something from him every day.''
Brett Emerton echoed his captain's thoughts, saying the club should re-sign the 2006 World Cup winner.
''Of course we want him to stay,'' he said. ''He's a fantastic player with great leadership qualities and he's a good guy as well. He's fitted into the dressing room like anyone else, and every single player at the club will tell you the same thing. I definitely hope he's here next year.''
- Sydney Morning Herald
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