Victory waiting on Muscat, Theo

With Melbourne's pre-season preparations well underway, two of the Victory's most important players still haven't committed to the 2009/10 championship defence.

With Melbourne's pre-season preparations well underway, two of the Victory's most important players still haven't committed to the 2009/10 championship defence.

Skipper Kevin Muscat and goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos have been vital cogs in Melbourne's successes in the 2006/07 and 2008/09 seasons and while both are still training with the club, neither has signed on to play for the upcoming season.

Muscat, who will turn 36 on the eve of next season, is yet to agree to a new contract with negotiations stretching out for the better part of three months. The club is desperate to have the champion defender play on, but the financial fine print has the two parties currently at an impasse.

"Kevin is such an important part of Melbourne Victory. He means so much to us and we're still in some very serious negotiations," Victory football operations manager Gary Cole said.

Considering how eager the club appears to get Muscat back on board for what would be his 19th season as a professional, it would appear that the only one unconvinced as to whether he should play on is the player himself.

"We're working out at it, and I can only stress how important it is to get the job done," Cole said. "All I know is we really want to make that happen and hopefully we can do that sooner rather than later."

If Muscat does depart, it would mean Melbourne would have lost three defenders since the end of last season and only signed one, Thai international Surat Sukha. It would mean the club would need to find another first-choice option at heart of defence. But coach Ernie Merrick does not believe it will come to that.

"There's always a concern from the coach, but I've spoken to him personally and I'm quite confident we'll get him over the line." he said.

There is no such issue with the goalkeepers, given Melbourne already signed former Phoenix stopper Glenn Moss assuming Theoklitos would take up a European contract for this season.

But it could yet be left with three genuine first-choice options, given Theoklitos, who has been one of the A-League's best in his four years with the club, is yet to find a suitable deal overseas. Merrick said the club would be happy to have Theoklitos back for this season but that the decision was in the 28-year old's hands.

"I'm not sure what will happen in Michael's situation," Merrick said. "He has aspirations to go overseas and any player who's gone overseas we've helped. That will work itself over the next few weeks."

"We've got two tremendous back-up goalkeepers in Mitch (Langerak), who is playing better than ever and New Zealand national team goalkeeper Glenn Moss."