Adelaide limbo for Barbiero and Kostopoulos

Vince Caligiuri

United midfielders Fabian Barbiero and Evan Kostopoulos must wait until new manager Josep Gombau arrives in mid-July before they are notified of their re-signing or release.

Without the fanfare of premiers Western Sydney Wanderers or championship winners Central Coast Mariners, Adelaide United had a solid, if unspectacular 2012/13. With new manager Josep Gombau not arriving in Adelaide until July, the majority of the Reds' roster will remain in place for the 2013/14 season while other clubs vie for international signings and star players. Only three roster spots remain, two of which were occupied last season by Fabian Barbiero and Evan Kostopoulos.

The Reds' fourth place finish came despite a mid-season managerial change after John Kosmina resigned in late January. Interim manager Michael Valkanis did not lift Adelaide any higher on the ladder than his predecessor, but nor did he drop out of a finals position. Yet an elimination final loss at home to Brisbane Roar cut short the season and Valkanis moved back to his role as assistant with Gombau's hiring on April 30.

Gombau is completing his current contract at Kitchee SC where he has won various trophies and coach of the year awards in Hong Kong over the past four seasons. Yet his late arrival at Adelaide has left Barbiero and Kostopoulos between contracts. Both players are awaiting potential extensions but must wait six weeks for the new manager to arrive before any decisions are made on their status.

Though neither player is a star at Adelaide, both were contributors to the Reds' fourth place finish. Barbiero, who has been at Adelaide since 2007, appeared 16 times while Kostopoulos made 18 appearances, scoring twice. In fact, both of Kostopoulos' goals came in a 4-2 win over Melbourne Victory in Round 10.

For now, both midfielders have been granted freedom to play in local premier leagues to keep fit and prepare to impress Gombau in mid-July. Barbiero has already joined Croydon Kings while Kostopoulos weighs his options. Worryingly for the pair, Adelaide used only three of its visa slots in 2012/13 leaving two available for next season if Gombau would like to explore that option. Funding is often an issue for the Reds but Barbiero and Kostopoulos may find themselves without contract several months into pre-season preparations and as other clubs have already solidified their rosters.

There is no guarantee that Gombau will make use of the open visa slots, though his European background and time in Asia suggest that he would be willing to consider finding foreign players to complete his first Adelaide roster. At just 36 years old and without previous ties to the A-League, he may be less inclined to give Barbiero and Kostopoulos the benefit of the doubt when he does finally arrive next month.

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