Melbourne City coach Rado Vidosic is yet to concede defeat in the battle to keep Socceroo-in-waiting Aiden O’Neill, but admits the star midfielder’s “dream” is to return to Europe.
O’Neill, who made three English Premier League appearances as an 18-year-old for Burnley, is reportedly set to leave City at the end of the A-League season to join French club Troyes.
And despite reports that City has already lined up a replacement for O’Neill in Wellington midfielder Steven Ugarkovic, who is leaving the Phoenix when the season ends, Vidosic hasn’t given up of retaining the 24-year-old Queenslander.
“He’s been offered a (City) contract – he’s still thinking about it,” Vidosic said of O’Neill.
“There’s no concrete decision that he’s going to leave, and there’s no concrete decision that he’s going to leave for France, so it’s just speculation.
“We’re just waiting to hear differently, and if that is the case, then we will respond to it.
“We are hoping that he’s going to stay.”
However, Vidosic is well aware that O’Neill has a desire to again test himself on the European stage.
“Like many players in the A-League, he’s got a dream to go back to Europe,” Vidosic said.
“He’s done fantastically well for the club. He’s out of contract and if he makes a final decision to go overseas, I’m quite sure that he’s going to have successful season wherever he goes.
“Then they will have to respond to that, (but) trust me, we’re going to do everything that we can to keep him, and then if we have to replace him, we will find the best suitable replacement for him.”
Like Melbourne City, Troyes is owned by the City Football Group.
Coached by former Melbourne City mentor Patrick Kisnorbo, Troyes is in danger of being relegated from Ligue 1, French football’s top flight.
Should Troyes go down to Ligue 2, Kisnorbo would be no certainty to keep his job, which could determine whether O’Neill joins the club.
O’Neill has been a key factor in City’s success since joining the club after spending most of the 2019-20 season at Brisbane Roar.
His form has him in selection contention for the Socceroos’ two matches against Ecuador this month.
O’Neill will get another chance to push his national selection claims on Sunday when A-League leaders City host the Roar at AAMI Park.
City is keen for redemption after losing 4-2 to Adelaide United last week. It was City’s second defeat in three matches.
“It’s a good learning curve for us,” Vidosic said.
“We are looking forward to playing Brisbane, keeping in mind that we will probably play them (Adelaide) in the finals again.
“They are one of the better teams in the finals race, so we’ll probably end up playing them again in either the semis or the grand final.”