With only ten rounds left in the 2013/14 A-League regular season, clubs have been making big moves to place themselves in position to reach the finals. With nine of the league's ten clubs within a single point of the finals after seventeen rounds, and Melbourne Heart finally starting to climb slowly up the ladder from the bottom rung, moves made in the transfer window are even more important than in previous seasons.
While there were certainly players coming in earlier in the transfer window, most notably Tom Rogic's loan to Melbourne Victory, many of the moves before February were outgoing transfers. Kwame Yeboah, Michael McGlinchey, Brett Emerton, Mitch Nichols, Tiago Calvano, Trent Sainsbury and Daniel McBreen all departed before the latest crop of signings were brought in. Yet as those familiar faces depart, a group featuring a heavy dose of A-League and Socceroos experience will fill some of the gaps.
Joining the likes of Jean Carlos Solorzano, Rostyn Griffiths, Rogic, Joel Griffiths, Ryan Griffiths and Bernie Ibini, early February's captures will be reminders of years past while clubs prepare for a finals push and in some cases the Asian Champions League.
Here's the latest on the A-League's recruitment in February's first week:
Central Coast Mariners - Eddy Bosnar (Guangzhou R&F)
Bosnar, who was a teammate of Mariners manager Phil Moss at Northern Spirit in the late 1990s, was snapped up before Sydney FC could sign the 33-year-old center back. Having spent the past five years in Japan and Korea, Bosnar will provide experience and familiarity in Central Coast's upcoming Champions League campaign.
Central Coast Mariners - Kim Seung-Yong (Ulsan Hyundai)
The capture of Kim is perhaps the biggest coup of the transfer window, giving the Mariners a key player with ample experience in the Champions League. Having spent his entire career at some of Asia's biggest clubs, including FC Seoul, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Gamba Osaka and most recently Ulsan Hyundai, Kim will be more than comfortable in Group F. At 28, the Korean winger is in his prime and the Mariners have him locked in through the 2014/15 season.
The well-traveled 30-year-old defender will finally make his A-League return when he joins the Jets in their battle for a finals position. Carney played part of last season in MLS with Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry in New York where his club won the league's regular season title. But after a disappointing playoff exit, Carney was out of contract and chose to return to Australia for his next stop. From 2005-07, Carney played at Sydney FC but has been in England, Holland, Spain, Ukraine and the US over the past seven years.
Adelaide United - Michael Marrone (Shanghai Shenxin)
Marrone just turned 27 last week and returns to his hometown club where he debuted in the A-League six years ago. Though he came up with the Reds, Marrone spent most of his time in the A-League with Melbourne Heart before departing for China last offseason. One year was enough, though, and with his contract terminated, the right back returns to Adelaide with the club hanging on to a finals position on goal difference.
Western Sydney Wanderers - Golgol Mebrahtu (Melbourne Heart); Daniel Mullen (Dalian Aerbin)
Neither Mebrahtu nor Mullen will be able to take part in the Wanderers' 2013/14 A-League campaign due to an already full roster, but both will be at Tony Popovic's disposal when Western Sydney make its debut foray into the Champions League. Mebrahtu, a striker, leaves Melbourne Heart after two seasons while Mullen returns to an A-League club on a full-time basis for the first time since the 2011/12 season. Mullen, who was a key defender in the strong Adelaide United Champions League outfits of the late 2000s, spent nine games on loan with Melbourne Victory last season.
Brisbane Roar - Steven Lustica (Adelaide United)
As detailed last week, Lustica wanted out of Adelaide and asked for a return to Brisbane after just fifteen games with the Reds. Though they initially balked, Adelaide finally released Lustica over the weekend and the Roar announced his return to Queensland on Monday. Lustica played a dozen games with Brisbane on loan last season before making his full-time move to the A-League with Adelaide in the offseason.
Sydney FC - Sasa Ognenovski (Umm Salal)
Ognenovski, the 34-year-old defender, makes his A-League return after a five-year absence during which he captained Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in its 2010 Champions League winning campaign. Though the Sky Blues do not have Asian football to play this year, adding a player of Ognenovski's stature, despite his age, can't hurt. Currently in fifth place by a single point, Sydney need every bit of help as they try to hold off Adelaide, Perth, Wellington and Newcastle for a finals position.
Western Sydney Wanderres - Antony Golec (Adelaide United/Liaoning Whowin)
Like Mebrahtu and Mullen, Golec will not be a part of Western Sydney's title defense in the A-League. However, he will be available for Champions League defensive cover, despite leaving Adelaide United less than a month ago to join Chinese Super League side Liaoning Whowin.