CENTRAL COAST Mariners might be in troubled financial waters but they are about to receive an unexpected bounty in the form of a massive $1 million-plus transfer fee from the sale of Rostyn Griffiths.
The 23-year-old has agreed to terms with a Chinese Super League club - understood to be Guangzhou Evergrande - in a deal to be lucrative for both the club and player.
The Mariners yesterday would not confirm how much the deal was worth but one source close to the transfer said the deal was one of the largest in A-League history, and given the ambiguity of other big deals - such as Adam Griffiths's move to Al Shabab in 2009 - it might be the first to reach seven figures.
It is believed Griffiths will also become the highest-paid Australian player yet to represent the Socceroos, with an annual wage of $800,000 said to be coming his way. Guangzhou - who originally wanted Brisbane's Erik Paartalu - can certainly afford it, for last year they made Argentinian midfielder Dario Conca the third-highest paid player in world football with an annual salary of $US10.4 million ($9.7m).
The deal couldn't be better for club or player, with Griffiths coming to the end of his two-year contract with Central Coast, at which point he was keen to try his luck abroad in Europe, which would have seen the Mariners lose him for nothing. He had already rebuffed approaches from Perth and Newcastle, saying that if he wanted to stay in the A-League, it would be with the Mariners.
Of course, the flip side is that Graham Arnold's side loses one of their top players in their quest to win their first A-League title. They are almost certain to lose him before Saturday's match against Sydney FC at Bluetongue Stadium, for the Chinese transfer window closes on Friday.
But of all the positions the Mariners have depth in, it is in defensive midfield. Veteran John Hutchinson has enjoyed a standout year alternating between the anchoring role and left midfield, frequently keeping Olyroo captain Oliver Bozanic out of the team.
Former Olyroo Stuart Musialik is also a natural in that position and is working his way back to full fitness, while the emergence of another potential superstar, Tom Rogic, has ensured the Mariners' midfield stocks remain filled.
Another midfielder, Michael McGlinchey, was the subject of interest from Chinese clubs while Josh Rose had to seriously weigh up an offer from the same league before instead signing a three-year deal with the Mariners.
Another player who could also be on his way to China is former Socceroo Mile Sterjovski. The Perth Glory forward is out of contract and, despite an underwhelming stint in the A-League, has hit peak form in the past two months, attracting interest from abroad.