Socceroos captain Lucas Neill could be swapping the United Arab Emirates for China amid speculation his Dubai-based club Al Wasl is willing to let him go during this transfer window.
Neill, who is contracted until the end of the season, was linked with a switch to Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda before Christmas.
And it’s understood that Neill - who turns 35 in March - is seen as surplus to requirements by Al Wasl’s French coach Guy Lacombe, who replaced Brunu Metsu in November. Lacombe wants to free up an Asian spot on his roster as he seeks to transform a poor season for the club, which is languishing in eighth spot – 17 points off Alex Brosque’s league-leading Al Ain.
Ironically Neill, who was released by fellow Pro League outfit Al Jazira after a season prior to his switch to Al Wasl, was one of five nominees for 2012’s AFC Player of the Year.
He missed out on the final shortlist of three but said at the time: “I was surprised when I found out (I had been nominated), but at the same time extremely proud and humbled that I could be recognised among some really top Asian players.
“It also gives me justification having chosen to come here and be challenged in this league. I've seen numerous comments now from foreigners from both here in the UAE and from outside either complimenting or criticising this league.
“But when you look at it, and you can only judge it when you're playing in it, there are six or seven teams this season who can arguably win the league.”
Neill’s UK-based agent Darren Jackson could not be contacted by SBS on Tuesday night, but said recently: “Yes, there has been interest from other clubs, but for the time being Lucas very much remains a Wasl player and is committed to the club.”
The ex-Millwall, Blackburn, West Ham, Everton and Galatasaray defender remains determined to play on to – and beyond – the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil as he bids to lead Australia to a third successive finals appearance.
Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) will award former Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer with its highest honour, the Alex Tobin Medal.