premier league

Victory trailing Premier League frontman ahead of A-League restart

The 32-year-old was born and brought up in north-eastern France and began his career with local club Metz before moving to Cardiff City, then in the Championship, in 2011. He was part of the Cardiff side that was promoted to the Premier League for the 2013-14 season.

He then had spells at Blackburn – where Victory’s new assistant manager, Steve Kean, had previously been boss – and Villa, where a career highlight was scoring two goals against Liverpool at Anfield.

For the past three years he has been at Middlesbrough, who are currently in the Championship.

Brebner has already made good use of his UK contacts to stiffen his midfield and attack by signing former Premier League winger Callum McManaman, who won man of the match honours in the 2013 cup final when he was part of the Wigan Athletic side who defeated Manchester City, and central midfielder Jacob Butterfield.

The duo played together in the English Championship last season when they were with Luton Town.

McManaman is 29, Butterfield 30. The latter has 350 games of experience playing in England’s Championship for Barnsley, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Derby County before Luton Town.

Brebner believes they will bring the necessary leadership and game smarts to the young and inexperienced squad he is rebuilding, following a disastrous 2019-20 campaign that was shot to pieces long before COVID-19 put the A-League into a temporary hiatus before a mid-July revival.

A striker such as Gestede – who played for France’s junior international teams before opting to play for Benin, where he has family ties – would provide a similar level of experience in the forward third, where he could link up with McManaman and Kiwi international Marco Rojas on the flanks, with Socceroos striker Robbie Kruse playing in behind.

Aside from McManaman and Butterfield, Victory have also signed Australian youngster Ben Folami, a centre forward on loan from English League One side Ipswich Town, and a young defender in Dylan Ryan, another youthful Australian, from Dutch Eredivisie club Willem II.

Ex-Perth Glory midfielder Jake Brimmer and back-up goalkeeper Max Crocombe, who was at Brisbane last season after several seasons in the English lower leagues, are other new faces at AAMI Park.

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Many experienced players with good pedigrees are now available at UK and European clubs as the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with football finances below the elite level competitions.

While salaries in Australia will also take a hit, agents say that a number of well-credentialled older players could be attracted here because of the lifestyle.

Victory will face Melbourne City in a behind-closed-doors pre-season game on Monday before leaving for the Doha hub in Qatar, where they will play their Asian Champions League group fixtures.

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