NEWCASTLE’S blockbuster against Sydney FC at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday could be the last game Andrew Nabbout plays for the club.
But coach Ernie Merrick is adamant the possible departure of the in-form attacker – for a $500,000 transfer fee – would not derail the Jets’ title hopes.
A Japanese club, understood to be Urawa Red Diamonds, and a Dutch outfit have flagged interest in Nabbout.
The 25-year-old signed a two-year extension with the Jets in November that includes a release clause, understood to be $500,000, if an overseas club tables an offer.
The Japanese transfer window closes at the end of March.
The fee is unlikely to be an issue for Urawa, known as the Manchester United of Japan, and if a deal is struck Nabbout would exit immediately.
Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna confirmed that an Asian club had enquired about Nabbout but said they had not received an offer.
"I don’t see it as a bad thing as long as we have lots of cover."- Ernie Merrick
“Since Andrew has been at the club his manager Tony Rallis has rang me four or so times and said he has interest from overseas,” McKinna said. “Up to now nothing has happened. The clubs previously were from the Middle East. Three weeks ago he rang and said their was interest from an Asian club but we have not got anything in writing.”
Nabbout’s exit would leave a major hole on the eve of the second-placed Jets’ first finals campaign since 2010.
The power-packed forward has scored nine goals and provided seven assists.
“Andrew has had a fantastic season,” coach Ernie Merrick said. “If he is going to benefit and the club is going to benefit financially, I don’t see it as a bad thing as long as we have lots of cover. I have been in this league for 11 seasons. At Victory we had continual speculation about our players going overseas. It is a credit to the club that bigger teams in other countries are looking at our players. I just make sure that we have all the right people in place, ready to continue on. Look at this weekend, we are playing the top team with Ronny Vargas out, Ben Kantarovski probably won’t start and Pato Rodriguez is out. Joey Champness is not starting and we have seen how good a player he is.”
The transfer window in the Netherlands does not open until June and a move to the Eredivisie could open the way for Nabbout to complete the A-League season.
“Ideally, you would like to play in the grand final and the next day he jumps on a plane,” McKinna said.
McKinna said the release clause in Nabbout’s contract was a part of football business.
“We tried to extend Andrew’s contract at the end of last season and at the time he wasn’t interested,” McKinna said. “We addressed it again in November and extended another two years. But to do that – remembering at the end of this season Andrew could have went anywhere in the A-League and after that goal against Western Sydney demanded what he wanted – we had to put a clause in his contract. It is a substantial amount of money. If Andrew didn’t re-sign, he could have left in June for free.”
McKinna was confident that Nabbout’s development and possible sale would help recruit players to Newcastle.
“It does help attract players because they know you won’t stand in a player’s way,” McKinna said. “Plus they know they are being developed. Andrew was a boy with ability. Under Ernie and under Jones last year, his game has gone through the roof. He has that confidence. The big thing for him is that he loves Newcastle. He has come here and settled straight in. It is a big decision for him. It is flattering that we are getting interest in our players. It is unsettling us? I don’t think so.”