Abbas back on radar: Jets reopen talks with discarded Iraqi midfielder

NEWCASTLE Jets have reopened talks with livewire Iraqi Ali Abbas but coach Branko Culina played down speculation linking the club with a move for former Socceroo Scott Chipperfield.

A former refugee, Abbas has spent the past two years in Newcastle but was initially overlooked for a contract extension.

‘‘We had a discussion today and I have asked the club to speak to Ali’s management and try to work something out,’’ Culina said.

‘‘While we believe his game needs more development, we have invested two years in him.

‘‘He has improved and done well but the question is can he take it to another level.

‘‘Time will tell but at 24 you do not want to discard him now. The salary cap will play a part. Certainly I’d like to keep him if we can fit him in.’’

Used mainly off the bench in his first season, Abbas started in 18 of his 24 appearances last campaign and earned a recall to the Iraq national team only for red tape to prevent him from playing at the Gulf Cup of Nations and Asian Cup tournaments.

He split his time between the left and centre of midfield, but with the arrival of Jason Culina is expected to revert to a wider role if he stays at the club.

The Jets are in the market for a marquee striker, experienced stopper and left back.

Culina held talks with Chipperfield a year ago about returning from Switzerland for a swansong season in the A-League but said recent reports linking the Socceroos utility to the Jets were premature.

‘‘I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t of interest but we are a long way off [signing him],’’ the coach said.

‘‘We had a crack at him last year. He came up and had a look around.

‘‘He has a Swiss wife as well so that plays a bit of a part.’’

Chipperfield, 35, has played at left full-back in the majority of his 68 games for the Socceroos but has also been used on the left side of midfield and more recently has been used as a striker by Basel, where he has spent 10 years and played 257 games.

Culina said Chipperfield would have to fit under the cap ‘‘if he decided to come back to Australia’’.

After missing out on two-time A-League Golden Boot winner Shane Smeltz, the Jets have turned their attention overseas for a marquee striker and a stopper but are unlikely to fill either position until the completion of the European competitions.

‘‘Most transfers in Europe, in particular, happen in April and May,’’ he said.

‘‘ I don’t think it will happen until then but that does not mean we will just sit back and wait.

‘‘We have a shortlist of players.

‘‘If we can’t get the right high profile player I’d rather get someone who is 23-24 and wants to prove themselves or has done the job elsewhere and wants to use Australia as a stepping stone to bigger things. They would also have to meet the criteria for a marquee player. It is not easy.’’

Culina confirmed he had made an approach to former North Queensland defender Mark Hughes.

‘‘He has gone back to England and is happy to play there in the lower leagues,’’ the coach said.

‘‘We are now looking at other options. One is a ex-Ghanaian international.

‘‘With the salary cap in place it will be difficult but we will keep trying.’’

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