Wellington Phoenix’s Oskar Zawada set to leave club

Publish Date
Sunday, 19 May 2024, 9:29AM

By Bonnie Jansen

There’s more heartbreak for the Wellington Phoenix as their coach Giancarlo Italiano confirms star striker Oskar Zawada will be departing the club.

The forward who scored the 99th-minute equaliser against Melbourne Victory to send Saturday’s second A-League semi-final leg into extra time won’t be returning to the Capital for the 2024/25 season.

“You won’t see Zawada here [next season],” Italiano revealed after their 2-1 loss to Melbourne in Wellington.

The 28-year-old Polish forward has played for Wellington for the past two seasons, quickly rising to become the club’s sixth-highest goal scorer with an impressive tally of 22 goals.

Despite rumours early in the season that Zawada was considering overseas offers, the forward chose to stay and help the club achieve its most successful campaign to date. Wellington finished second in the regular season, sold out their home semi-final, and narrowly missed out on a grand final appearance.

Italiano said there were two main reasons why Zawada wouldn’t be returning for a third campaign, and that it mainly came down to money.

“The available money that we have doesn’t allow us to retain every player that we want. It’s unfortunately because we’ve done well this year that the markets obviously push the value of those players up.

“And I want to reinvest some of that money into some of the younger players that I want longer-term.

“So, for me, I made that decision....and I think there’ll be heaps of suitors for [Oskar].”

On the contrary, Italiano revealed he’s confident their current season’s top goal-scorer, Kosta Barbarouses will come back for another season.

“I’m pretty confident I’ll keep Kosta... he’s very happy here and he deserves another contract.”

Arrest no distraction
Meanwhile, Italiano responded to the pair of former Wellington players being arrested on the eve of their semi-final match.

Current All White and former Wellington Phoenix midfielder Clayton Lewis was reportedly arrested in Sydney on Friday for alleged betting corruption. As was Ulises Davila who is a former captain of the Phoenix. Police claimed they manipulated the number of yellow cards they received for Macarthur FC.

Like the public, the Phoenix players received the news of their former teammates just over 24 hours before their biggest match of the season. And despite going on to lose the game in the dying stages, Italiano said the arrests hadn’t been a distraction.

“I don’t think it was a consideration. We spoke about it yesterday and there was no talk of that [being a distraction].”

In his time at the club, being on the coaching staff since 2019, Ialiano said he had seen no evidence of spot-fixing.

Not knowing much of the details of this latest scandal, Italiano didn’t want to comment further.

“I understand that it’s very serious at the moment and it’s something that jeopardises the integrity of the league.

“I think it’s a very important matter, but it needs to be dealt with in the right way and then I can make comment once the courts make a decision.”

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission

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