Rudan explains why Wanderers couldn’t keep star import after Leckie comparison

Western Sydney Wanderers are eyeing more than just Australia Cup success, the Isuzu UTE A-League side are targeting a spot in Asia.

The Wanderers face A-League Men rivals Adelaide United in a blockbuster Australia Cup last-16 tie at Marconi Stadium on Tuesday.

Western Sydney are gearing up for the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League season, which begins in October, after reaching the finals for the first time since 2016-17 last term and the cup is perfect preparation.

It also provides a pathway to the AFC Cup for the winner – Macarthur FC are featuring in this year’s tournament alongside Central Coast Mariners after claiming the 2022 Australia Cup.

“I’m taking this seriously. It’s a cup, there’s a place in Asia up for grabs”, Wanderers head coach Marko Rudan told reporters on Monday.

“We want a good test. We know the kind of football they play and we want to be better than we were last season.

“I’m excited, the players are excited. We want a good test. It’s going to be a great night between two teams who like to attack. I hope it’s not a 4-4 draw (referencing last season’s 4-4 thriller Adelaide).”

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Rudan also provided an insight into why the Wanderers didn’t retain Tunisia international Amor Layouni. 

Layouni flourished during his loan spell from Norwegian side Valerenga in January – the 30-year-old scored four goals in 11 appearances.

But he departed at the end of 2022-23.

“You see a club like ours and we had an okay season and then they start comparing themselves with other players,” Rudan said.

“In terms of what they’re earning and Amor Layouni for example, who was a sensation for us and we wanted to keep him but comparing yourself with a Mathew Leckie is just sometimes unrealistic, particularly financially.

“It’s not that we didn’t want to keep these guys.”

Rudan was speaking as Saudi Arabia’s football revolution has an impact on transfer markets across the globe.

The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Karim Benzema have all moved to Saudi Arabia, where the superstars are earning eye-watering sums of money.

Western United’s foundation star Connor Pain also swapped the Isuzu UTE A-League for Saudi Arabia’s second tier.

It has been an off-season of change for Rudan’s Wanderers.

Morgan Schneiderlin (end of loan)Romain AmalfitanoYeni NgbakotoJack Warshawsky (Central Coast Mariners)Amor Layouni (end of loan), Adama Traore (Melbourne Victory), Alessandro Lopane (Melbourne City)Daniel Wilmering (Newcastle Jets)Rhys Williams (retirement)Kusini Yengi (Portsmouth), Terry Antonis (Melbourne City)Calem Nieuwenhof (Hearts) and Tomislav Mrcela (Neftchi) have all departed.

Meanwhile, Lachlan Brook (Brentford)Dylan Pierias (Western United)Jack Clisby (Perth Glory)Marcus Antonsson (Al-Adalah)Josh Brillante (Melbourne Victory), George Antonis (scholarship), Anthony Pantazopoulos (scholarship – Oakleigh Cannons), Marcus Younis (scholarship contract), Oscar Priestman (scholarship contract) and Doni Grdić (HNK Šibenik) have arrived.

“It’s not just Saudi Arabia too, there’s a lot of countries that can offer a lot more money than ours,” Rudan said.

“Have a look at the imports that have been signed (in the ALM) this year, across the board it’s not like there’s been any real headline (grabbers) out there.

“That tells you what the market is (doing). We’re struggling. Twelve months ago, there were a lot of players at my disposal but it’s so difficult this year.

“Saudi Arabia’s got a second division, as well, that are paying astronomical amounts of money.

“This year has been the toughest for me personally in the last five years in the A-League that I’ve had to encounter.

“Take Melbourne City away and no other team has gone and made a lot of noise.”

Despite the exodus, Rudan was confident the Wanderers would strengthen before they begin their season against Wellington Phoenix on October 22.

“We’re not finished. It takes a bit of time. We’re three foreigners short,” Rudan said.

“We’ve been talking for the last four to five weeks with a few players so we certainly want to improve the current squad that we have got.”