Bolt, Mariners And FFA Mull Next Step
Having provided Usain Bolt a platform to showcase his worth and invested almost two months of toil, Central Coast risk quickly losing sight of the world's fastest man and football's most famous trialist.
Reigning Maltese champions Valletta FC, boasting cash to splash after investors from the UAE recently took charge of the club and vowed to fund a charge towards the Champions League, have reportedly offered Bolt a two-year contract.
Bolt, who turned down offers from European clubs prior to initially picking the Mariners, is now mulling whether he'll continue chasing an A-League gig.
The 100m world record holder's decision won't be based purely on money but Valletta, dangling a lucrative no-strings-attached deal in front of the eight-time Olympic gold medallist, may also have the Mariners covered when it comes to opportunity.
Central Coast have insisted at every stage that Bolt's timeless trial is a long-term project. January had been floated as the probable deadline for a final decision as Bolt tries to rise to A-League standard.
Should the Mariners decide to table an offer earlier than expected, the club and Football Federation Australia (FFA) will also need to think outside the box when it comes to marketing arrangements and third-party sponsorships.
The early indication was that Bolt's signature required an additional $900,000 from FFA's marquee player fund.
FFA chief executive David Gallop has reaffirmed the Mariners will not be allowed to dip into the fund to sign Bolt, leaving a major shortfall to cover.
Central Coast insist it is business as usual for Bolt despite global interest in the superstar following his brace in Friday's trial game.
"Usain Bolt will continue his indefinite training period with the Central Coast Mariners until any further notice," Mariners chief executive Shaun Mielekamp said in a statement on Tuesday.
"The club will be making no comment on media speculation regarding the future of Usain.
"Full focus for the Mariners remains on our round-one away trip to face the Brisbane Roar."
Valletta managing director and CEO Ghasston Slimen told ESPN his club hoped to have Bolt on board in time for a match on December 13.
Bolt's Australian representative Tony Rallis refused to comment on the latest development or whether his client has a deadline in mind.
Mariners coach Mike Mulvey has previously laughed off the prospect of Bolt becoming a distraction, repeatedly noting he can help ease pressure on players in the squad.
But as the Mariners confirmed Matt Simon's reappointment as captain for a campaign that starts on Sunday, Bolt's uncertain future remained a source of great intrigue.
"It's very much, the ball in the Mariners' court," Gallop told Macquarie Sports Radio.
"He's clearly improving and it was great he got a couple of goals.
"If they get to that (signing) point then we'll look at what's feasible for us but it can't be for the marquee player fund. We don't want to compromise what that's put in place for."