Lucas Neill’s search for a club has found no takers in the A-League as the clock ticks on the March deadline that Socceroos coach Ange Postecogou has set his skipper to find a new home.
Neill – who turns 36 on 9 March – has been offered to all 10 A-League clubs, most recently Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United. But, as yet, none have shown tangible interest.
And with Postecoglou declaring that, to be seriously considered for his FIFA 2014 World Cup squad, Neill must give himself at least two months of regular football heading into Brazil, his representatives are faced with a matter of some urgency.
The two-time World Cup campaigner's last competitive match was 90 minutes for his country in the 1-0 win over Costa Rica in Sydney on 19 November – a week after the last of his nine matches for J.League outfit Omiya Ardija.
The club - which left Neill on the bench for his final two weeks in Japan - opted not to extend his short-term deal earlier this month, soon after Neill had returned to Australia citing family reasons for his premature exit.
His Australian agent, Paddy Dominguez, could not be contacted on Friday to clarify questions over his immediate future.
"I'm not concerned at this stage. We'll just wait and see, he might get himself a club," Postecoglou said of Neill’s predicament three weeks ago.
"I've said all along that the key thing will be form and fitness every time I select a squad, and March is still a few months away. I'd be concerned if nothing's happened by March."
With the likes of Middlesbrough's Rhys Williams, a rejuvenated Matthew Spiranovic at Western Sydney Wanderers, Shandong Luneng's Ryan McGowan and Jeonbuk Motors's Alex Wilkinson also vying for central defensive spots, the pressure on Neill's spot is intense.
And that's not to mention Aston Villa's Chris Herd – who is also making a late run for the squad after breaking back into first team calculations at Aston Villa in recent weeks after a string of injuries.
Herd, 24, started against Fulham and Stoke City this month but was absent as Villa crashed 1-0 at home to Mile Jedinak's Crystal Palace.
A case can also be made for League One Preston North End's Australian stopper Bailey Wright as a World Cup bolter.
He will be watched, along with Herd and several other possible Socceroos' calls ups for March's European friendly against an unnamed opponent in Europe, when Postecoglou arrives in the UK on a scouting mission in January.
Wright, 21, is a fans' favourite at Deepdale and has been the club's most consistent player this season, making 24 appearances to date as it stakes a claim for promotion to the Championship.
Worryingly, Neill has played just 15 club games in the past 12 months – a total of 1,016 minutes during spells with Al Wasl, Sydney FC and Omiya.
He has made a further eight appearances for his country - to be just four shy of 100 - for a total of 686 minutes in that time.
Neill made nine appearances for Omiya – four off the bench – and three for the Sky Blues earlier in the year.
He has been released by his past five clubs – Omiya, Sydney FC, Al Wasl, Al Jazira and Galatasaray.
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