Roar's Paartalu tipped for China move
Speculation is rife Erik Paartalu has played his last game for two-time defending A-League champions Brisbane as Central Coast Mariners confirmed they had signed exciting Roar winger Nick Fitzgerald for the next two seasons.
Paartalu is tipped to officially announce this week he has linked with a Chinese Super League club, leaving what would be big shoes to fill in the Roar defensive midfield.
And confirmation Fitzgerald is Mariners-bound adds to what looms as a crunch week for the Roar, who have lost three of their five games under new coach Mike Mulvey.
They sit one point clear of dead-last Wellington ahead of Sunday's tough home clash with an in-form Western Sydney Wanderers.
Mulvey reportedly summoned his players after their disappointing 1-0 away loss to Newcastle last Saturday night - their ninth defeat in 16 games - but the club denied it was a "crisis meeting".
In some good news for the Roar, Socceroos defender Jade North will make his Brisbane debut against Western Sydney.
But Fitzgerald's days at Brisbane are officially numbered after announcing he would return to the Mariners after two years at the Roar.
Fitzgerald, 20, became frustrated with a lack of opportunities since master coach Ange Postecoglou left for the Melbourne Victory at the end of last season.
It is a shot in the arm for the ladder-leading Central Coast, whose young stocks look set to be plundered.
Striker Bernie Ibini is off on a trial with Belgian giants Club Brugge, while Tomas Rogic is training with Scottish heavyweights Celtic and attracting plenty of interest from other UK clubs.
Danish club Randers is the latest European club to be linked with goalkeeper Mat Ryan after his trial with Rangers fell through while Chinese Super League clubs are reportedly interested in John Hutchinson and Daniel McBreen.
But Fitzgerald looked forward to returning to the Mariners under coach Graham Arnold.
"The most important thing for me is to be playing regular, high quality football," Fitzgerald said.
"After some recent discussions with Graham Arnold, I am confident that I will be given that opportunity at the Mariners."
Arnold rated the Australian youth international as one of the country's most promising talents.