Victory searching for overseas defender

Hyundai A-League champion Melbourne Victory is set to move its search for a key defender off shore with coach Ernie Merrick admitting that the club will pursue an overseas player to fill the void left by the departures of Michael Thwaite and Sebastian Ryall.

Hyundai A-League champion Melbourne Victory is set to move its search for a key defender off shore with coach Ernie Merrick admitting that the club will pursue an overseas player to fill the void left by the departures of Michael Thwaite and Sebastian Ryall.

Merrick said the club's major priority was in re-signing captain Kevin Muscat and Costa Rican Carlos Hernandez, but it was mindful it needed to move on shoring up its defensive options with Thwaite moving to the Gold Coast and Ryall shifting to Sydney.

"(What we need) is a centre back who is fairly flexible and can play defensive midfield or right back, and I think they'll have to be an overseas player because I can not see anyone in this country who is available and can fill that role," Merrick told Sportal.

"If they're any good they are already playing in the A-League. We will try and sign an overseas high-quality defensive player. But because we've lost two, we'll go for a secondary player, who may be a youngster coming out of the institute."

Muscat's signature is crucial in the planning for the Victory's championship defence, because if he chooses not to play on then Merrick will be searching for three defenders. But Merrick is confident his captain, who turns 36 on the eve of next season, will pull on the boots again next season.

"We haven't resigned Kevin, but I'm pretty confident that will be straight forward," he said.

The other immediate concern for the club is determining Hernandez's future at the club. The Costa Rican's loan deal expires in June and the club is currently negotiating through an agent on getting him to the club permanently.

Merrick would like to sort out Hernandez's future sooner rather than later, as the club will need to sign a replacement player if the 26-year-old decides to move on.

"The key signing is an attacking midfielder, if Carlos doesn't re-sign. That's being worked on. If Carlos signs on, we don't need any attacking midfielder. If he goes, we have a budget to get a quality midfielder. We hope to resolve within the matter of a week or two."

Michael Theoklitos' future at the club will be left in the hands of the player, with the experienced goalkeeper seeking opportunities in Europe.

"I don't know about Theo," Merrick said. "He's desperate to go overseas and we want what's best for him. If he stays, that's fantastic, we've got cover."