Sunday, September 22, 2013

Contreras adds Latino spice to Victory

Marquee signing: New Melbourne Victory signing Pablo Contreras, formerly of Olympiacos, shields the ball from Arsenal's Lukas Podolski during last season's Champions League.

Marquee signing: New Melbourne Victory signing Pablo Contreras, formerly of Olympiacos, shields the ball from Arsenal's Lukas Podolski during last season's Champions League. Photo: Getty Images

Melbourne Victory have nailed down a marquee signing for the season, confirming on Sunday what has been the subject of rumour all week – that Chilean international defender Pablo Contreras will be joining the club.

The centre back has a strong pedigree, having been part of Chile's international set-up for more than a decade and was part of their squad in South Africa in 2010.

Contreras, 35,  has played at the highest levels in his home country, Spain, France and latterly Greece, where he was with leading Athens side Olympiakos.

Earlier in his career, he was a teammate of Melbourne Heart coach John Aloisi when the pair were at Spanish Primera Liga club Osasuna.
Those with long memories may recall Contreras as part of the Chilean defence in the side that won the bronze medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympics football tournament after losing the semi-final to eventual gold medallists Cameroon at the MCG in front of a large crowd.

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Signing a defender as a marquee player is not common in the A-League, although it is not without precedent.

Central Coast signed Socceroo utility Tony Vidmar in that capacity, while Craig Moore, the former Socceroo centre back and captain, joined Brisbane Roar as their marquee man.

Contreras' wealth of experience should allow him to bring stability and expertise to a Victory defence that, former skipper Adrian Leijer aside, is  young.

It will be interesting to see whether Leijer retains his place in the team alongside Contreras or whether Victory boss Ange Postecoglou opts to stick with teenager Nick Ansell.

Given the latter is likely to be away with age-group national teams during the season, Leijer, for continuity's sake, may be the first choice to partner Contreras.

The signing means Postecoglou will not need to consider moving his skipper, dynamic midfielder Mark Milligan, into the back four.

Milligan made his name as a fullback or central defender, but in latter seasons has been hugely effective as a screening midfielder, a role in which he has become a first-choice national team player.

Contreras will land in Melbourne on Monday night, have his first training session on Tuesday then travel with his teammates to Tasmania where Victory will play a pre-season game against Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday.

''Pablo is a high-quality central defender who will be an important part of our journey towards an A-League championship and, hopefully, our upcoming Asian Champions League campaign,'' Postecoglou said.

He is the third player of Chilean extraction – after Rody Vargas and Marco Rojas – to play for the navy blues.

Contreras  is the fourth marquee player the club has been linked with in the off season, the others being Greek national team captain Georgios Karagounis, former France international William Gallas and  former Italian international Fabrizio Miccoli.


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