Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic has a message for Wanderers fans: Shinji Ono is not going anywhere – at least not in the January transfer window.
The Wanderers mentor on Friday shot down reports the Japanese star was looking to leave the club in January.
Ono is off contract at the end of this season and, despite other club’s circling, has yet to be offered an extension.
But Popovic insists there is no urgency to secure the 34-year-old’s signature for next season.
“I think the club has made their position clear on that,” Popovic said without wanting to elaborate.
When pressed about the club’s position he responded: “You do know what the club’s position is, he’s not going in January.”
Ono has expressed a desire to stay at the Wanderers but fuelled speculation with his response last week when asked if we would consider leaving the side in January.
“I don’t want to comment about this question actually,” he said.
“But if you’re a football player, if you know some club’s offer to me is good, I’m very happy. But I’d love to stay with the Wanderers.”
The Wanderers recently knocked back an offer from J-League division two side Consadole Sapporo for the former Japan international, but it is believed Ono is tempted by the opportunity to return to his homeland and that Sapporro are considering improving their bid.
But Popovic denied Ono was looking to leave and said he hadn’t spoken to his marquee player about the issue.
Popovic cited Ono’s strong performance in the Wanderers’ 2-0 win over Central Coast on Monday as proof he was happy at the club.
“No I haven’t needed to speak to Shinji about it,” Popovic said.
“We’re clear on where we’re going and Shinji’s fine. He’s very happy.
“You saw how he played on the weekend. He’s in a very good place and there’s nothing for us to worry about.”
Meanwhile the Wanderers face Melbourne Victory away on Saturday in their second of three games in 10 days.
Popovic said the intense schedule would serve as a preview for the busy period when the Asian Champion’s League kicks off in February.
“It’s a challenge but it’s one that we need to get used to because at the end of February we’ll be doing that very regularly,” he said.
“So it’s a good test to see how we manage the players and how we manage recovery between games.”
Popovic was hopeful of having striker Mark Bridge and playmaker Aaron Mooy back on Saturday after the pair were rested from Monday’s clash with tightness.
Forward Brendon Santalab (calf), who has missed the last four matches, also looks likely to return.