Markus Babbel doubts a Western Sydney Wanderers homecoming is on the cards for Tomi Juric despite the Socceroos striker being shown the door by his Swiss club.
Juric has been told to train alone and encouraged to seek a transfer by FC Luzern, who he signed for back in July 2016 when Babbel was their coach. It caps off a disappointing period for the 27-year-old, who was not included in Graham Arnold's Socceroos squad for last month's Asian Cup after struggling with injuries and form at the start of this season.
Hometown hero: Tomi Juric back in his heyday with the Western Sydney Wanderers.Credit:Brendan Esposito
Several A-League clubs inquired about Juric's availability during the recent transfer window, which has shut in Australia but remains open in Switzerland until Friday. The recent developments may prompt them to try again, albeit for next season.
As Babbel gets the opportunity to shape his squad, Juric is precisely the type of player who could help him rejuvenate the Wanderers – and the presence of his old coach at his former club could also serve as a comfortable platform for the Sydney product to rebuild his career.
Babbel said he would naturally ask the question but isn't holding his breath. "Of course he's a good striker, but I don't know what he wants to do," he said.
"The last time I spoke to him, he wants to stay in Europe. I can't imagine that he will be coming back to Australia."
Babbel, who coached Luzern from October 2014 to January 2018, said he was disappointed to hear that Juric had been frozen out.
"I feel sad a little bit for him because he's a top guy, but it's not surprising me that this has happened," he said. "This is the problem if you are an Australian national team player. He never got a rest – the longest holiday he had was 10 days max, 14 days, then he has to start again. If the national team is playing, there's the break in Switzerland and if he's coming back, the season is nearly starting so it's very, very difficult for Tommy but also difficult for the club."
Babbel is a busy man at the moment, preparing for Western Sydney's last nine games for the season as well as juggling contracting and recruitment for their next campaign.
Keanu Baccus became the first player re-signed by Babbel on Thursday, penning a fresh three-year deal. Others are queuing up to leave – Josh Risdon has sealed a move to A-League newcomers Western United, while Roly Bonevacia is being courted by Perth Glory boss Tony Popovic.
There is a chance Risdon may have played his last game for the Wanderers. The right-back is sidelined for the next three weeks with injury and Babbel may look to give first-team experience to Tate Russell for the remainder of the season.
"On one side we are sad because he's a top guy, good player," Babbel said of Risdon's pending departure. "But otherwise it's a chance for other players to take this spot."
The Wanderers will look to back up just their third win of the year when they face Adelaide United on Saturday night. Although they have lost Kwame Yeboah and Jaushua Sotirio to injury, they should regain Alexander Baumjohann, while veteran Mark Bridge is also finally nearing full fitness and is likely to play in a weekend friendly with their youth squad against touring Chinese team Guangzhou R&F, who are on a pre-season camp.
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