Usain Bolt is on the verge of sealing a deal to trial with the A-League's Central Coast Mariners, the Australian club said Tuesday, as the sprint hero pursues his dream of playing professional football.
Eight-time Olympic champion Bolt, 31, who retired from athletics after August's World Championships in London, is an avid Manchester United fan who has long dreamt of playing top-flight football.
The 100-metre and 200m world record-holder trained with Norwegian club Stromsgodset last month and Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund in March. The planned arrangement will see him take part in a six-week trial starting next month at the Mariners' base in Gosford, some 75 kilometres north of Sydney, chief executive Shaun Mielekamp said.
A season-long deal could follow if it goes well, he told commercial broadcaster Channel Seven.
Football agent Tony Rallis, who has been working on the deal, told Sky Sports Radio's Big Sports Breakfast on Tuesday a deal has been agreed "in principle ... subject to a couple of benchmarks".
"Mainly, a trial, and of course marquee funds support from [governing body Football Federation Australia]," he said, adding that the arrangement was not a gimmick.
"Once the FFA comes back and says that they'll be part of the process, we're going to the trial ... This bloke's an ambitious athlete. The A-League needed a hero, and we got superman."
The trials of Usain Bolt
With Central Coast Mariners in line to become the latest side to assess Bolt's footballing ability, here is a look at where the 31-year-old Jamaican has played and how he has performed.
Soccer Aid A Manchester United fan, Bolt has said he dreams of playing for the Red Devils one day. He was able to get a taste of what that might be like at the charity match Soccer Aid this summer, where he captained the World XI side at Old Trafford. Playing up front, Bolt came close to scoring on several occasions, hitting the bar and having one shot which appeared to cross the line not given by the officials. The match went to penalties where Bolt finally found the back of the net from 12 yards. He was named man of the match by broadcaster ITV.
Stromsgodset Wearing the number 9.58 shirt - in honour of his 100m world record in 2009 - Bolt made a brief appearance in a Norwegian friendly in June. The former Olympic champion had been training with Stromsgodset that week, culminating with a match against Norway Under 19s. His impact was limited, however, only coming on for the last 20 minutes in a 1-0 defeat. He did have one good chance to score during his time on the pitch, but could not convert a close-range header.
Borussia Dortmund Bolt was invited to train with Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund for two days during an international break in March. The presence of the world's fastest man attracted 1,400 fans, who were rewarded by seeing Bolt score a header and nutmeg U19 defender Dario Scuderi. Bolt said he would have given his performance a seven out of 10. However, then Dortmund manager Peter Stoger was not quite so impressed, saying Bolt has "a lot of work to do" to become a top-level footballer.
Hublot Match of Friendship Bolt's skill and athleticism stood out in this charity game in May. So much so, his manager for the day Jose Mourinho remarked "Maybe football lost a talent to athletics". The five-a-side game featured the likes of Diego Maradona, Roberto Carlos, Marcel Desailly and Hernan Crespo. Bolt was on the scoresheet as the match finished 11-11.
Mamelodi Sundowns Bolt spent a day in January training with Mamelodi Sundowns, who are the most successful side in South Africa's Premier Soccer League. He was visiting the country as part of an athletics development scheme. Nothing came of the brief run-out, although Bolt did receive some praise from manager Pitso Mosimane, who said "Good thing is he's a free agent! And he can play in a few positions."