Tony Popovic remains hopeful the Western Sydney Wanderers can hang on to Japanese star Shinji Ono next season.
The Wanderers locked away another player on Wednesday with livewire winger Youssouf Hersi signing a one-year contract extension.
It comes after imports Jerome Polenz and Mateo Poljak and defenders Adam D’Apuzzo and Shannon Cole also pledged their future to the club last month.
But it’s the future of Ono which is becoming more pressing for the A-League newcomers, with still no word if the Japanese midfielder will remain in Sydney’s west for another year.
“We’re in discussions with his representatives at the moment and were happy with how that process is going along,” Popovic said on Wednesday.
“He’s very happy, very comfortable here and we’re very positive that the outcome will suit both parties.
“We certainly want him here next year and we’re confident that we can achieve that.
“The board will take that view when the next talks continue.”
Ono’s sublime form has not surprisingly caught the attention of rival A-League clubs with Melbourne Heart and Perth Glory keen to lure him away from the Wanderers.
Cashed-up clubs from China are also reportedly keeping an eye on developments over the 33-year-old’s future.
“Good players are always linked to other clubs,” Popovic said.
“We’re actually quite pleased that he’s doing that well that other clubs want him.
“If your players are doing well you expect them to get interest for other teams, whether it’s here at the A-League or outside of Australia.
“I take that as a positive for this football club.”
Another huge positive for the Wanderers has been the form of Hersi.
The Ethiopian-born Dutchman has played a pivotal role in the club’s surge up to third spot on the ladder with his pace and workrate a real weapon down the right.
After a couple of injury-riddled seasons the 30-year-old has flourished with consistent football but Popovic is adamant the winger’s best in still to come.
“He’s getting stronger game by game and we’re pleased he’s shown his good qualities out on the field,” he said.
“There is more to come because now you’re seeing in the last few months a real consistency with his performances because he’s getting fitter and stronger.
“We feel he will do even better and do it for even longer periods, than what’s he doing at the moment.
“I’m looking forward seeing him still improve because I know he can still improve.”
Hersi admitted he thought seriously about returning to Europe but wanted to repay the club’s faith in taking a gamble on him at the start of the season.
“I’ve struggled the last two years with injury but I’ve felt really good here,” Hersi said.
“It was difficult because I thought I might want to go somewhere else but I thought about it and it’s better to stay here.
“I followed my heart and I think the club is building well for next year too.”
The Wanderers host the Newcastle Jets at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday night, with right-back Polenz available again after serving a one-game ban.
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