Celeski, Vargas re-sign with Victory

Melbourne Victory mainstays Billy Celeski and Rody Vargas have re-committed to the club ahead of the AFC Champions League campaign while football operations manager Gary Cole has endorsed new signing Isaka Cernak as a natural successor to likely departee Robbie Kruse.

Melbourne Victory mainstays Billy Celeski and Rody Vargas have re-committed to the club ahead of the AFC Champions League campaign while football operations manager Gary Cole has endorsed new signing Isaka Cernak as a natural successor to likely departee Robbie Kruse.

Defender Vargas has played in two Melbourne championship sides while Celeski featured in the 2009 Grand Final success. The former has extended his stay by one year, while the latter, who has successfully made a comeback from a knee reconstruction, has signed on for another two.

"Both players have been integral to the football club," Cole said. "Rody has been here since season two and Billy was part of our most recent championship, having joined in 2008."

Cole also confirmed that Kruse will stay with the club through the early stages of the AFC Champions League, but said it was pretty certain that the rising star will head to Europe in June.

"We would love for Robbie to stay, but I think Robbie has made it clear that he wants to go overseas but where that will be, we don-t know. That's a question for Robbie and his management," he said.

"We're over the moon that he is here for the Asian Champions League campaign. If he wants to stay after that, we'll be more than happy to have him."

With Kruse set to depart, Cole said Cernak, who has only recently arrived from North Queensland Fury, looks the logical replacement.

"If you look at the qualities he's got, he loved to turn and run at people. They are the one-on-one skills that we identified in Robbie Kruse," Cole said.

"The aim will be to get him in as an attacking midfielder into the penalty area often. If we can get him scoring goals regularly, he has the same characteristics, he loves to run forward. He can go inside and outside. He scored a couple of goals this season, hopefully we can make that five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 or 12 next year that'd be great," he said.

Cernak is used to comparisons with Kruse having grown up with the 22-year-old a year above him at school. He hopes to follow the same path to success which Kruse has taken over the past 18 months.

"I grew up with him. He was a year older than him. So everything he did, I've always tried to follow. Without realising it, I've done all the representative stuff a year after him," he said.

"Seeing him doing so well is brilliant. I know how good he is. He was given the opportunity to play here and he has taken it with both hands. That's a massive reason why I've come down here."

Victory's other ACL signing is young goalkeeper Tando Velaphi, who said he was confident he could put his reputation for inconsistency in his time at Perth Glory behind him when given the chance at his new club.

Velaphi has been given no guarantees of first-team football at Melbourne and will have to fight Michael Petkovic for his spot throughout the AFC, after which time Petkovic is expected to make a decision on his future.

Meanwhile, Cole confirmed contract negotiations with Mate Dugandzic had fallen over and that the club expected to lose the emerging star once his contract expires at the end of March.