Rumours have been circulating around the future of Socceroo and Wellington Phoenix attacker Nathan Burns. The subject of a reported sizeable offer from Asia, Burns has impressed in the yellow and black this season and leads the A-League with ten goals to his name.
But speculative reports have suggested that Burns has a release clause in his contract and that the Phoenix are holding out for over $2 million from the interested party, reported to be Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua. These reports also said that Burns has informed Phoenix officials that he wants to leave the club, all of which has been slammed by Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick as “ridiculous”.
“There’s been two articles in the newspapers in Sydney, and none of those journalists have spoken with us or anyone at the club. There’s so many inaccuracies it’s incredible, but that’s the stories that some people write,” Merrick said on Thursday morning when speaking to local media.
“The disappointing factor for Nathan, and I’ve spoken to him (about the issue), is that someone put words in Nathan’s mouth, saying that he has an out clause and he wanted to go etcetera, that’s a nonsense.
“Nathan Burns is purely focused on playing for the Socceroos, representing his country and coming back here to play for the Phoenix.”
Merrick went on to say that the financial details in the reports were misguided and that he would jump at the chance to make a deal for the prices being quoted.
“The inaccuracies are just quite incredible, and I’ve tried to phone this agent that got mentioned…I’ve actually tried to phone him because if he’s offering us $1.5, $1.6 million US, I’m taking it. And we’ll give him Nathan, and we’ll give him a couple of academy players for that amount and maybe steak knives as well!”
Merrick then dispelled the notion that the Phoenix are holding out for a sum of over $2 million.
“That is absolutely ridiculous that our club is holding out…I don’t know him (the agent), I’ve never spoken to him, I don’t know where those figures came from, it’s all a nonsense.
“This idea that we’re holding out for over two million dollars is ridiculous.”
Merrick did confirm that the Phoenix have been in negotiations with a club from China for over a week, but wouldn’t reveal if it was Shenhua or not.
“We have been dealing with a club from China though, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve been dealing for about a week and a half and the communication’s been good…Nathan’s been kept up to date and his agent that we’ve been dealing with isn’t the one that was mentioned.”
In an interesting development, Merrick then suggested that on official offer had yet to be tabled by the Chinese club interested in Burns.
“If the club is serious, they’ll put on letterhead a serious offer and then the board will make a decision. They’ll make a decision in line with what’s good for the team and the club, and also what’s good for the player.”
Merrick, appalled at the lack of balance in the articles, concluded his press conference by launching a final volley at the authors of the reports.
“Both articles were written by journalists who never at any stage contacted me or the club. Any details of anyone’s contract is absolutely confidential. Everything that is written (in these reports) is totally inaccurate and one sided, and I can’t believe that that standard of journalism still exists.”