Melbourne City is reportedly set to sign former Slovenia captain Robert Koren as its international marquee for the coming A-League season.
The Herald Sunís Matt Windley has reported that Koren witnessed Cityís 5-1 friendly victory over Bolton Wanderers overnight, and he was subsequently photographed while in discussions with club CEO Scott Munn and Manchester City executives including Brian Marwood.
The club is yet to make any official announcement, but the deal appears all but sealed.
Before analysing Korenís recent career, which has included accomplished spells in the English Premier League and Championship with West Bromwich Albion and Hull City, letís address the elephant in the room. No, our international marquee will (probably) not be Frank Lampard, and it wonít be Xavi or any other massive name.
But that doesnít really matter. Those guys, and other big names, may have stints at the club in any case (via New York City FC), but Melbourne City just wonít attract those sorts of names on a permanent basis just yet. As much as the club must improve on the pitch, it is equally reliant on its rivals to help boost the A-Leagueís profile and standard before it can seriously hope to attract a truly household name as its own international marquee.
Besides, the signing of Orlando Engelaar barely caused a ripple 12 months ago, and he proceeded to dominate and win a permanent place in fansí hearts and minds during his abridged spell in Melbourne.
Which brings us to Koren.† An industrious and durable midfielder, the 33-year-old is one of Sloveniaís greatest-ever footballers, having represented his country more than 60 times, many as captain. Koren also scored the solitary goal in Sloveniaís first and only World Cup win four years ago:
At club level, Koren is best recognised for his time in England. After stints in his home country and Norway in the early 2000s, Koren joined West Bromwich Albion in 2007, where he proceeded to spend four years, making 129 appearances and scoring 16 goals. Following his release in 2010, he signed with Hull City on a free transfer.
The Tigers proceeded to get relegated in Korenís first season, but the midfielder opted to stay with the club. Koren was named club captain at the start of the 2012-13 season, and he remained skipper after Hull was promoted back to the English Premier League a year later. However, his contract expired at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, during which Koren made 26 senior appearances (22 in the EPL). The club opted against re-signing Koren, making him a free agent once again.
Hereís a video of Korenís 28 goals for Hull:
While not confirming Korenís signing, Marwood made some interesting comments when discussing the type of player Melbourne City wants in a marquee.
ďIt's important that we have the right kind of characteristics both on and off the field... We don't want players coming to the club and thinking it's a final pay day or it's a few months in the sun in a beautiful city. That's not what this club is about,Ē he said.
Koren, a proven leader with ample tread seemingly still on the tyres, seems to fit that bill seamlessly. How he would slot into Cityís crowded central midfield is an issue to watch closely. The club has already signed Aaron Mooy to a lucrative deal, while the likes of Massimo Murdocca, James Brown, Stefan Mauk, Nick Kalmar, Jonatan Germano and others will also be fighting for spots in the teamís engine room.
The Slovenian can and will certainly be accommodated in the side, but his signing would make what was already looming as a tough competition for first-team places even tougher.
For now, we await confirmation. But letís not kid ourselves Ė Koren would be a fantastic addition to the City squad, and his signing would represent another strong statement of intent from the new owners.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What are your thoughts on Robert Koren? Would he be a good international marquee?