WESTERN Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic has denied suggestions that marquee man Shinji Ono has already signed with Japanese club Consadole Sapporo.
But Popovic insisted Ono would be wearing the red and black hoops for a while yet.
"As it stands, Shinji is our player now, he will be our player until the end of the season and he hasn't signed anywhere," Popovic said at training today.
While Popovic hailed Ono by saying he had fulfilled all of the club's expectations of him since being signed as their inaugural marquee player, the Wanderers boss still wanted more from the 34-year-old in the remainder of what could be his final season at Pirtek Stadium.
"We expect more from him leading into the second half of the season now with the ACL (AFC Champions League)," Popovic said.
"It's exciting times for the club, Shin's certainly very excited to be a part of it and he, like all of us ... is looking forward to an ACL campaign."
Western Sydney's first match in the ACL is against South Korean outfit Ulsan Hyundai at home on February 26.
Of more immediate concern for Popovic and the Wanderers is a local derby against Sydney FC in the A-League on Saturday night.
The Sky Blues line-up has changed quite a bit since this season's first Sydney derby, which the Wanderers won 2-0, with Ranko Despotovic in particular having a big impact by scoring four goals in seven appearances since arriving at Allianz Stadium in late November.
Sydney FC have recorded three wins and a draw with Despotovic in the team and Popovic is preparing for a very different Sky Blues unit to the one they were confronted with in their October 26 encounter.
"The players that have come in have done a good job for Sydney FC and they've shown that with some of the goals that Ranko's got up front," Popovic said.
"We'll be aware of that and obviously aware of a team that, on their day, is very dangerous and in a derby anything can happen on the day.
"We expect it to be a real passionate affair and I think the key is to try and just get three points out of that game.
"You want to perform well, it becomes a little bit unpredictable in derbies but something that you look forward to as a coach and as a player and as a fan.
"It should be a special day."
Popovic is in the fortunate position of having a full squad to choose from against Sydney and confirmed his rotation policy wouldn't be altered just because the Wanderers are about to take part in a local derby.
"It's a good headache to have for a coach," he said. "We take that word 'rotating' a little bit too far I think. Whoever plays for our club is the best XI for that day, that's how we view it with every match.
"We've never gone into a game with a group of players on the field that we thought couldn't win the game ... and the same will be tomorrow."