Newcastle Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna has stated the club will pursue a marquee signing in a bid to bolster their chances of qualifying for the AFC Champions League next season.
The Jets, fresh off a second place Hyundai A-League Regular Season finish and narrowly falling in the Grand Final, are now set to enter the AFC Champions League qualifying stages, where they will hope to reach the group stage.
To do this, McKinna highlighted the need to secure a marquee signing, with star import Ronald Vargas a prime contender but also scope to bring in someone else to excite fans.
“If we can resign [Ronny Vargas] then we’ll be quite happy to get that over the line,” McKinna told Fox Sports News on Wednesday.
McKinna, directly addressing the speculation that FC Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta could be an option for Hyundai A-League clubs, added: “Newcastle were linked to [Andres Iniesta] yesterday.
“I have no idea how we were linked to him but obviously because we’ve made the Grand Final people think we’ve got loads of money and can go and get him.
“In terms of marquee signings, we brought in Ronald who didn’t play a lot but showed the class he can produce.
“The crowd love it and we will definitely be trying to bring in a marquee. [Jets owner] Martin Lee, because will be in the Asian Champions League play-off, it will support his business if we can qualify for the group stage. We will be going all out [to qualify] and whether we bring Ronald Vargas or somebody else [as a marquee], we will.
“We can’t just be seen as a regional team. We made the Grand Final, were unlucky not to win, but we want to play with the big boys.”
Newcastle’s achievements in 2017/18 were made all the more remarkable considering the serious injury to Vargas to start the season, and the departure of key attacker Andrew Nabbout to Japanese giants Urawa Red Diamonds in January.
Nabbout was included in Caltex Socceroos boss Bert van Marwijk’s 32-man provisional FIFA World Cup squad as a reward for his fine form.
But he wasn’t the only player Jets fans will be closely following, with versatile attacker Dimitri Petratos also earning a call up.
“[Petratos] is a big part of the culture of the club and he is a quiet guy when you try to interview him,” McKinna said when explaining the club’s pride at Nabbout and Petratos’ progress.
“All you’ll get is ‘thanks, it’s nice to be here’. He is quiet but on the park he’s had an outstanding season and made the Socceroos squad. Also Andrew Nabbout has made it as well which is testament to young players who have been knocked back but have come back in their career … it’s not always easy but they’ve done it the hard way.”