After trials with Bolton Wanderers and FC Basel, as well as rumors of interest from Southampton, Trent Sainsbury will return to Central Coast Mariners after all, according to The World Game. The 21-year old central defender has one year remaining on the two-year contract extension he signed in January 2012.
The Mariners have already seen 21-year old goalkeeper Mat Ryan leave for Club Brugge within the first month of this offseason. Meanwhile, 20-year old striker Bernie Ibini should complete his $600,000 move to Shanghai SIPG any day while 24-year old midfielder Oliver Bozanic is expected to land at Busan IPark in the K-League.
While selling young players overseas has been a part of Graham Arnold's larger scheme at Central Coast, losing so many in one offseason, and so many who played such a vital role in 2012/13, would be difficult to overcome. Sainsbury is particularly valuable to Arnold's 2013/14 plans for the Mariners due to the retirement of defender Patrick Zwaanswijk. The pair played together in twenty-five of twenty-seven league games and six of seven Champions League matches, providing Arnold with consistency and the A-League's second best goals against record.
Replacing Zwaanswijk will be complicated enough so Sainsbury's return will allow for a more natural transition through the pre-season. With 22-year old Zachary Anderson earning significant minutes in 2012/13 and highly touted 19-year old Hayden Morton ready to play regular first team football, Sainsbury is part of a banner crop of young defenders. 2013/14 will likely be his last in the A-League, but it could raise his profile even higher and give Arnold a chance to restock before Sainsbury's eventual departure.