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Off-contract players in 2020: Who stays and who goes?

The January transfer period brings a number of exciting news stories about new players coming in, but sometimes contract re-signings can provide as much interest.

Historically, A-League clubs have had a reasonably high turnover rate every season, including City, but this season we find ourselves in a much stronger position, with the second-least off-contract players (10) in the league, behind only Brisbane (7).

While we’re likely to move some of these off-contract players on in order to get new blood in the squad, there are some who we’d be excited to hear re-signed for seasons to come.

With the transition to an independent A-League, and pushes from various sectors, the salary cap may not exist in the same format next season, but we’re assuming one still exists, with the same restrictions that are in place at the moment (ie. loyalty player benefits, including 12.5% outside the cap after 4 years, 25% after 5 years), when we talk about re-signing players.

Contracts ending 31st May 2020:

Senior players: Dean Bouzanis, Harrison Delbridge, Rostyn Griffiths, Nathaniel Atkinson, Florin Berenguer, Denis Genreau, Lachlan Wales.

Scholarship players: Joe Gauci, Stefan Colakovski, Bernardo Oliveiro.

Dean Bouzanis

Let’s start with the player who we’re likely to receive the most hate when talking about...

Distribution Dean has been one of the most polarising players in the City-era of the club. Much maligned for some questionable decision-making, he’s also managed to unseat some of the more experienced goalkeepers we’ve had on the books, namely Tommy Sorensen and Eugene Galekovic.

Excluding his one-year loan to PEC Zwolle under old Heart/City coach John van’t Schip, he’s the longest-serving player at the club. Dean was signed on January 6th 2016, around the time of the transfer of Tando Velaphi to Shonan Bellmare in Japan, as the backup to Sorensen. He made one appearance that season before usurping him the year after. He has made 55 appearances for Melbourne City, conceding 81 goals and having 14 clean sheets.

When talking about whether to re-sign Dean or not, there are a number of things to keep in mind.

Firstly, given his time on the club’s books, he’s likely to have 25% of his wage paid outside the salary cap from next year. Assuming he’s on somewhere around $150k per season, it means we’ll be paying $112,500 inside the cap on his wage. When you look at the state of goalkeepers in Australia, particularly goalkeepers who may spend most of the time on the bench, there are very few feasible alternatives that exist who would accept a wage of that price who also haven’t been on our books before. While we have some excellent youth keepers, we certainly have no-one with his experience on the books who could step up in the case of injury or red card.

The second thing to consider is his relationship with our W-League captain, Steph Catley. We’re not saying this is the determining reason for him to be re-signed, but his continued stay in Melbourne would likely be a strong motivating factor for our three-time championship-winning W-League captain to also remain with City.

Our verdict: Offer a multi-year deal.

Harrison Delbridge.

'Delboi' is a beast of a defender and formed arguably the greatest centre-back pairing the club has seen when he partnered with Dutchman Bart Schenkeveld last year.

Signed from the then-NASL club FC Cincinnati after going through the US college system, Delbridge has grown from a lanky and awkward looking bench player to an important cog in our defensive wheel.

Despite being a monstrous 193cm tall (6'4") and an obvious target for set pieces, he only broke his goal-scoring drought in the most recent Melbourne Derby, using his towering frame to head the ball into the back of the Victory net to bring the game back to 2-1.

He has made a total of 52 appearances for the club, has scored one goal and two own-goals, and has accumulated 10 yellow cards and three red cards over the course of two full seasons (signing in January 2018).

Harrison, at 27 years old, is very much heading into his prime years as a centre-back, and has shown versatility in being able to slot into a fullback role if required. He has improved dramatically in the short period he has been with the club and certainly has the capacity to improve further in the right pairing.

When he first joined the club he was described as a player for the future, and he would certainly have a bright future staying with Melbourne City.

Our verdict: Offer a multi-year deal.

Rostyn Griffiths

Rostyn is a stalwart of the A-League. At 31 years old, he has already played for Adelaide United, North Queensland Fury, Central Coast Mariners, Perth Glory and now Melbourne City.

Ignoring the terrible choice of giving a CDM the jersey #7, Rostyn has played a key role as a screening midfielder in the Mombaerts era after being out of favour under Warren Joyce. This season in particular, we’ve seen his holding role allow Josh Brillante to press further forward and contribute to the attacking phase with more freedom.

With the capacity to play as a CDM or CB in a pinch, Rostyn is another example of a versatile player who can give Erick more bench options for creative and attacking players.

He’s consistent to a fault, with fans almost being able to predict which games he’ll pick up a booking in. He has accumulated 4 yellows in 9 games so far, to go along with his 5 yellows and one red card in the previous season.

Rostyn is also rumoured to be on a reasonably sizable wage and at 31 years old might be considering heading overseas for a final pay packet before he begins to wind down his career. He left Perth Glory at 29 due to the wages on offer in Uzbekistan, and has openly stated the Australian football can’t compete with the wages on offer in Asia and overseas.

With Connor Metcalfe being a revelation this season, Rostyn may be offered a smaller contract or let go, so as to make space for other signings.

Our verdict: One-year deal on lower wage, or allowed to leave.

Nathaniel Atkinson.

Natkinson received a senior contract at Melbourne City in January 2018, following two years in our Youth academy. At 20 years old and qualifying for ‘homegrown player’ status, Nat’s wages, irrespective of what they are, are paid outside of the salary cap.

Nat has shown his versatility this season in playing both as a right-back and right-winger, with some driving runs through the middle of the park to compliment his ability to take players on and dribble down the wing.

Excellent performances recently against Sydney FC and Western United have shown that he is certainly a quality A-League-level player and at his age is definitely a chance to kick on and take his career overseas after establishing himself.

Rumours already exist that Macarthur FC have made a play for Natkinson and there were strong rumours abound at the end of last year that he was going to join Perth Glory, so he’s very much an in-demand player. He is an important player to lock away before the end of the year.

Our verdict: Offer a multi-year deal, providing a pathway to Europe in the future.

Florin Berenguer.

Suffering from the Melbourne City marquee player curse, Florin arrived in the country with moderate expectations for what was initially a non-marquee VISA position. Suffering from being played out of position by Warren Joyce and a frustrating ability to wax and wane in games, Florin quickly fell out of favour with City fans.

Since Erick Mombaerts has come in, Florin has shown more signs of achieving the potential he's capable of. He has moved to a CAM role and, particularly throughout the pre-season, been far more involved in the build-up and finishing than in the whole of 2018/19.

Unfortunately, his season has been interrupted by injury, leading to one start and one appearance off the bench. In both matches, he has shown creativity and good link-up play with our other forwards.

Much has been made of the fact that Florin is our second marquee player and that he’s underperformed because of this tag. Let’s be frank – he’s marquee simply from a financial decision-making perspective, in that our second-highest wage earner can have their wage outside the cap. He’s not a marquee in the way Maclaren is.

As a VISA player, however, he hasn’t shown enough to remain on a high wage. He still adds value to the squad, but if he’s to remain contracted to City he should expect to be earning less in the coming years. If he gets injured again and spends more time in the Germano Rehabilitation Centre, we’d lean towards suggesting no contract should be offered.

Our verdict: Non-marquee contract offered on lower wages, or no contract offered.

Denis Genreau.

Continuing the theme of our #Yoof revolution, Denis Genreau returned from his gap year at PEC Zwolle a much-improved player.

His creative midfield performance against Western United in Round 3 was exciting and he's shown many signs of being an important creative cog since. He has been unlucky to not get a consistent run in the side, with injuries and Olyroos duties limiting his role in the starting XI.

In the same vein as Nathaniel Atkinson, the Sydney Morning Herald on December 26th reported that Macarthur FC have flagged their interest in signing Denis to their list for next season and onwards.

With Erick Mombaerts showing his trust in our youth players to get the job done, Genreau certainly will be getting more game time at City in the coming years. Denis has shown enough this season to suggest he could be our starting #10 for the next few seasons, a role we haven’t seen played consistently by an Australian since the days of Aaron Mooy.

Our verdict: Offer a multi-year deal, providing a pathway to Europe in the future.

Lachlan Wales.

Lachie Wales was the scapegoat of the Warren Joyce era. Joining from Central Coast Mariners on minimum wage, he was thrust from being a bench player on the wing to the starting striker while Bruno Fornaroli fought with Joyce and sat on the sidelines.

He has played 42 games for City, scoring 3 goals and registering 7 assists. While his end product is still lacking, he has shown enough both as a starting winger and off the bench to justify further development in the City style.

Taking the mantle off Steve Kuzmanovski as the step-over king, he has shown creativity, a willingness to take on defenders and the ability to cross, pass and shoot with both feet. Off the field, he has shown maturity beyond his years while dealing with the Olyroos Cambodia scandal – a situation that may have broken other players.

Wales won’t have access to any of the salary cap exemptions in the way Genreau and Atkinson do, so it would be feasible for other sides to offer him higher wages than we can with the promise of more game time, and this may lead to him leaving at the end of the season.

Let’s be honest though, if we didn’t write that we want the club to offer Lachie Wales a contract extension, Rene would probably break our arms.

Our verdict: A one-year, Rene-enforced contract offer.

There’s our verdict for who stays and who goes. Who would you offer contracts to and for how long? Be sure to comment on Twitter and Facebook, and vote for your chosen players in the poll below!

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