The Central Coast Mariners have confirmed they are in negotiations with eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt in a bid to bring the former sprint star down under for a trial.
The Mariners released a statement on Tuesday confirming talks have taken place regarding the potential for a six-week trial with a look to signing the 31-year-old Jamaican should he make the grade.
This will not be the first time Bolt has laced up football boots, having previously declared his ambition to play professionally having retired from athletics.
Bolt, an avid Manchester United supporter, has recently held trials with professional football clubs in Norway - with Norwegian team Strømsgodset - and Germany – with German giants Borussia Dortmund.
However, he would be given no special treatment in his potential trial with the Mariners, according to club CEO Shaun Mielekamp.
“Mike Mulvey’s [Mariners coach] perspective is that Usain would be treated like any other trialist that comes in,” said Mielekamp.
“There can be no losers here. Usain can come and trial and if he’s no good then they’ll give him some good feedback to where he can improve.
“If he does come and perform then great.
“From the coach’s perspective there’s only upshot here and opportunity.”
So how close is Bolt to securing a trial with the Mariners and what would it mean for the club and the Hyundai A-League?
All the burning questions are answered below.
HOW DID THE BOLT POSSIBILITY COME ABOUT?
Mielekamp explained that while Bolt’s agent was involved in bringing about the opportunity, the Jamaican played a big role in the trial almost becoming a reality.
Mielekamp said: “It came about through an agent that we’re very close with who knew Usain’s agent and they picked up the conversation and then we started to find out how serious Usain is about this and his level of training he had been putting into clubs in Germany and Norway.”
He added: “It’s really been Usain’s own personal drive and real ambition to get this to happen that’s surprised everybody. So it’s really been about him becoming a professional footballer.”
“That’s why they’ve identified the Hyundai A-League as the best league for Usain.
“They’ve had offers from MLS and other leagues but the fit hasn’t been there. It’s either been too gimmicky or not at the level he wants.”
WHAT WOULD BOLT’S TRIAL INVOLVE?
“He [Bolt] would have to come, live here on the coast, and be treated like every other player,” said Mielekamp.
“He would do the same community visits that every other player does and he’s aware of that, and if at any stage they indicate that’s not what they’re here for, we’ll walk away.
He added: “We’ve already had calls for offers for places for him to stay.”
WHEN COULD THE TRIAL BE CONFIRMED? WHAT’S THE NEXT STEPS?
“This conversation is still happening and we're at a point now where it’s becoming very real and it’s [time] to start getting focused on making sure it works properly," said Mielekamp.
Mielekamp added: “We’re just needing to map out what happens if he passes the trial, and what happens if he doesn’t pass the trial so it’s all done and cleared before he arrives."
“We haven’t fully agreed to terms so it really depends on all that. We’ve still got a lot of hard work and paper work to get through in the next week, week and a half.
“Things like this can’t be kept a secret. It would’ve come out eventually. We’d rather bring everyone along for the journey and hope they get to celebrate him coming as much as we will.”
WHAT’S THE BENEFIT OF BOLT COMING TO THE MARINERS?
“We’ve already had approaches from international sponsors wanting to get behind, which is really exciting,” said Mielekamp.
“I think there’s no doubt the stadium would sell out. There’s that much energy and magnitude behind it.
“But it’s not just about selling out this stadium. It’s about selling out every stadium as we travel around. So I’m sure the guys up at Brisbane Roar would be pretty excited right now to the thought of who might be coming to their first home game.
“For us it’s important not to get ahead of ourselves.”
HOW BIG WOULD IT BE FOR THE MARINERS?
“You can’t even comprehend how big it is,” said Mielekamp.
“We won’t know until it happens. It may not happen. We’ve just got to keep a very level headed approach to us.
“I spoke to Mike Mulvey this morning and he’s really focused on making sure that the boys and the team keep focused on the job they’ve got to do. At the end of the day we need to win football games and we have to deliver on the pitch.
“When he [Bolt] does perform and when he does score a goal, that’s the big moment. That’s the bit that everyone wants. Let’s not shut the door on that opportunity. Let’s see if it will become a reality.”