IF SYDNEY FC CEO Tony Pignata was a betting man, he’d put money on young midfielder Terry Antonis lining up for the Sky Blues this season.
The 19-year-old’s promising career is in limbo after his dream move to Serie A club Parma stalled and the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) was called in to resolve the impasse.
The Young Socceroo has suffered a horror stretch. A torn quadriceps muscle sidelined him on the eve of the U20 World Cup in Turkey and his move to Italy looks all but dead in the water.
But the harboursiders have stuck by their talented player, who has two years left on his deal and continues to receive treatment from the club’s medical staff. His recovery is on track for the start of the season in October.
“I’m keeping a spot for Terry – I’ve told him that,” Pignata told au.fourfourtwo.com. “So it’s just a matter of getting the verdict from Parma and then we can go forward.
“Technically he’s still a Sydney FC player. We haven’t issued an international transfer clearance. I’m not exactly a hundred per cent sure in terms of the process and what’s been signed over there and that’s what we’re trying to find out at the moment.
“I would have liked (a decision) by the end of this month but I don’t think a solution is too far away to be honest. If you were a betting man, which I’m not, I think you’d be saying he’s playing for Sydney this year.
“Put it this way – they’ve started preseason and he’s not there.”
Antonis has cut a despondent figure at some Sydney FC preseason matches. Pignata went public in May about urging Antonis to delay his European aspirations and stay in his home town for at least another year.
“Every young player wants to go overseas and make it and there is a time to do that,” he said today.
“If you want to make the big step to a big or better league then you’ve got to be able to go there and make sure you play. You don’t want to go there to sit on the bench because, at the end of the day, that’s the age you want to be playing games.
“The A-League is developing into a very very good league. I think sometimes younger players tend to rush off and then find themselves not in the best position.
“Offers will come. If you’re a good player and you’re playing well in the A-League you will get spotted, so you need to make sure when you make the next step you choose wisely.”
Sydney FC returned from Japan last week - where they fell 2-1 to J-League side Sagan Tosu – and head off for a history-making three week tour of Italy on Friday.
The presence of marquee and former Juventus great Alessandro Del Piero is already drawing huge interest and Sky Sports will cover training sessions and games.
After accusations of being under-done heading into their last campaign, Frank Farina’s men have ramped up their pre-season matches threefold.
As many as 15 games have been lined up leading into the 2013/14 season compared with just five last year.
Meanwhile the club is on track to meet its target of 10,000 members, about 1500 up on last season’s record.
That is well short of cross town rivals Western Sydney Wanderers, however, who are looking to fast track the expansion of the 20,000-capacity Parramatta Stadium after memberships surged to around 14,000.
But the Sky Blues enjoyed the second highest crowd averages of 2012/13 after Melbourne Victory, and Pignata said the 45,000-capacity Allianz Stadium means less pressure on fans to sign up.
“We have a big stadium to come into so a lot of (fans) may not buy a membership but they attend games,” he said. “We had an average of about 19,000 last year.
“People sometimes feel there’s no need to go out and get a membership because they can always go on the day.
“But we’re hopeful that people will sign up because if you buy a membership you’re not only helping the club but you’re also saving some dollars if you do go to games.”
The membership tally currently sits at just over 6000.