Usain Bolt and Australian football club the Central Coast Mariners look set to part ways because the Olympic sprint champion’s dream of being a professional soccer player comes with a hefty price tag the club is not willing to meet.
Bolt came to train with the A-League club, based north of Sydney, in August hoping to land a professional football contract, but Fairfax Media reported the gap between the Mariners offer and Bolt’s expectations could be as wide as $3 million.
Fairfax said the offer was “worth around the mean salary for an A-League player of less than $150,000”, while Bolt’s expectations were above $3 million.
In a statement issued today, Central Coast Mariners said a proposal was offered and negotiations were ongoing with Bolt and his management, adding that the “contract values speculated in the media are incorrect”.
But the difference in expectations is clearly an issue with the club admitting that: “without the financial contribution of an external third-party, it is unlikely that Usain Bolt and the Central Coast Mariners will agree to terms”.
The Mariners said they “want to ensure that Usain Bolt is given every chance possible to fulfill his dream to become a professional football player” adding that he “has made great progression… and we feel that he will improve further with more individual intensive training and competitive game time”.
The problem is that without a contract, Bolt can’t play in the A-League. The club says it is looking at alternatives.
But the Mariners also appear to have put their foot down while preparing for their second round match again Melbourne City, saying Bolt won’t be at training this week “until and if, the Club and Usain Bolt can agree to terms and formalise an arrangement”.
The eight-time Olympic champion has gone from publicity machine to “distraction” in the club’s statement.
A fortnight ago, Bolt scored two goals in a pre-season game, then his manager, Ricky Simms, announced last week that Jamaican Olympic goal medalist had turned down an offer of a two-year contract with Maltese Premier League champions Valetta.
But Football Federation Australia, which is keen to assist with helping the Mariners ink a deal with Bolt, is unable to help with his salary because he doesn’t qualify as a marquee player.
And Western Sydney Wanderers coach Markus Babbel doesn’t believe the former sprinter has what it takes to play at the game’s top level.
The German said earlier the weekend that while it’s great PR for the Mariners and FFA, the experiment “is not working”.
The Mariners said: “Both parties are eager to explore all options and ensure that if there is a suitable way forward for both player and Club, the two parties will keep working together and formalise an agreement”.