James Musa has signed a five-month contract with Fulham but the deal nearly came unstuck because of concerns by the English Premier League outfit over the amount they needed to pay clubs in New Zealand for the player's development.
Fulham are a tier one club in the eyes of world governing body Fifa and guidelines suggest Fulham would need to pay up to a total of 720,000 to clubs Musa played for from the age of 12. But they understandably baulked at the potential cost, threatening to withdraw the contract offer when some in New Zealand wanted a significant slice of this, until a commonsense agreement was reached.
There needs to be a balance between getting some money for development for New Zealander footballers and ensuring this doesn't block a player's ability to be signed by an overseas club, which is still the best pathway for young players in this country. Fifa's compensation package is in place largely to ensure smaller clubs get reparation for when larger ones snaffle their best players.
It's understood Fulham will pay some remuneration to New Zealand clubs Musa played for, including the Wellington Phoenix, if they sign the centre-back beyond the initial five-month contract but it won't be anywhere near the money suggested.
Musa trialled with Fulham after the Olympics and flew to London on Thursday to be put through a medical before signing the deal, which was done before the European transfer window closed. Fulham also signed former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov on the same day and Musa could make his debut for the club in a friendly against the Oman national side next week.
"There was a situation with Fifa in relation to training compensation fees,'' New Zealand Football chief executive Grant McKavanagh said. "We have to make sure if people are developing players that there is recompense for that to happen, that's what the rules are put in place for, but we also understand that we have to be flexible and reasonable around that. So what has occurred is that an agreement has been reached between the clubs and Fulham.
"We are not Barcelona and understand that. What we are talking about [with the rules] is someone coming through the Barcelona development system and going across. We understand where we sit in the scope of the world. But what we need to make sure we do when we are developing players is that money comes back. We will look at every case and make sure it's fair and reasonable.''
It will be interesting to see how Musa fares at Fulham. He played only 35 minutes of New Zealand's Olympic campaign when he came on against Egypt but has clearly impressed in his trial, which had been arranged before the Games.
The 20-year-old has potential - he's quick and athletic - but some don't warm to his attitude on and off the field. It was a principal reason he was released by the Phoenix 18 months ago and dropped down to Team Wellington, although he is said to have knuckled down in the last year.
Musa is optimistic of his chances at Fulham, and game time with the reserves will be his initial target.
"The key is to get yourself over there, get your foot in the door, try to show what you've got and try to progress through the grades,'' he told the Wanganui Chronicle. "Just to get over there and get into the environment is the thing.''
Former New Zealand under-17 captain Luke Adams is understood to be in talks with Championship outfit Derby County. Adams trialled there earlier this year but a serious knee injury put paid to any chance of a contract.
- APNZBy Michael Brown Email Michael