Culina gets coaches' blessing

Jason Culina's decision to return to Australia to play with new franchise Gold Coast United has won the support of the Hyundai A-League coaches, who say that it is a massive boost for the local competition.

Jason Culina's decision to return to Australia to play with new franchise Gold Coast United has won the support of the Hyundai A-League coaches, who say that it is a massive boost for the local competition.

Culina's move from PSV Eindhoven to the Gold Coast was confirmed last Wednesday, with the 28-year-old midfielder set to become the highest-paid footballer in the country.

Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick said that Culina's decision to return when he was still at the peak of his powers and still an integral part of the Socceroos' best XI was a sign of how much the profile of the competition had grown.

"It speaks volumes of the profile and standard of the A-League. Clubs are spending up big and if they are spending that sort of money it's because businessmen see a future in the game and that's very important that the sponsors see a future for the game," Merrick said.

"To bring back quality players, at the peak of the game, current internationals, that's a great thing for the A-League."

Perth coach David Mitchell, who coached Culina when he was at Sydney United, agreed that the credibility of the Hyundai A-League had grown enormously both in the Asian region and overseas.

"It speaks volumes that Jason's come home, I think it's great for the league. The league's just getting bigger and better every year and the credibility is getting up amongst Asian colleagues and also in England and in America," he said.

Mitchell said the reported $1.5 million a year Culina would be paid for his efforts would be money well spent.

"I think he's a fantastic player and I think he's playing very well. He's a good player, he's a Socceroo and I think with him it's no risk because he's a great footballer and he's dedicated to the game, so the calibre of that player I don't think there's a risk," he said.

Gold Coast's billionaire owner Clive Palmer made some big predictions at the club launch last week, saying the club would not only win the championship in its first year, but was aiming to be undefeated.

Mitchell believes that is as much about selling the club as it was about an inflated sense of confidence.

"They've got to do that to get a fan base and they've got to do that to get people interested. I think that's natural for them and I think they've got a coach (Miron Bleiberg) that likes talking things up as well anyway so I don't think that's going to be any different. So it all bodes well for them but again, it's not easy to get a club up and running and be champions straight away," he said.

Meanwhile, Queensland coach Frank Farina, whose club is set to have the biggest rivalry with the new franchise, agreed Culina's signature was a good move.

"It's a good signing, Jason is a good player, he's a very good signing for the Gold Coast," he said. "He got quite a lot of money for it, yeah, good signing."

Jets mentor Gary van Egmond offered conditional approval, saying that while he thought it was good for the league, he said only time would prove if it was good for Culina and the Socceroos.

"I think it is interesting. As a player you would expect him to try to play at the highest level for as long as you can. A player of his calibre could probably afford to play another couple of seasons overseas and still come back and play in the A-League," he said.

"I am not sure of the deal he is on but I think it is a great signing for the Gold Coast - he is certainly a wonderful player."