Robbie Kruse, James Holland China Contracts


THE Professional Footballers’ Association has revealed the staggering amount of money Australian pros have been cheated out of by Asian clubs over the past two years.

James Holland and Robbie Kruse’s ill-fated moves to China are the latest warning for Australia’s footballing talent choosing their next moves abroad.

The pair, who moved to Liaoning Whowin in January from Adelaide United and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, have left the Chinese Super League because of the club’s “repeated failure to honour its contractual obligations to the players”.

While the PFA is working tirelessly with agents to ensure that deals are watertight for players heading abroad, understands Kruse and Holland had such deals but the club refused to adhere to them

In the past two years alone, the PFA has had to secure $AUD 2.7 million for players that Chinese clubs had initially refused to pay. The number across the confederation is even more startling, with $AUD 8.6m requiring chasing over the past two years. Some of that money was procured through settlements prior to departing a club, but other chases took years to get the money.

Those numbers do not include monies now owed to Kruse and Holland.

The pair are the latest Socceroos chasing money owed to them by Asian clubs, and take the tally to six Aussies who have hastily departed Liaoning.

In January, they replaced Michael Thwaite and Dario Vidosic at the club, and both needed intervention from the PFA to secure their exits, while James Troisi only played three games there in 2016, and Josh Mitchell exited after one season in 2014-2015.

Robbie Kruse of the SocceroosSource: Getty Images

For all the riches being offered in Asia, the lessons are there that due diligence must be done beforehand to avoid a career roadblock. While the CSL might be dangling obnoxious amounts of money at the likes of Carlos Tevez, Oscar, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Hulk, Graziano Pelle and co, the record shows a willingness to simply stonewall paying players they no longer want.

While the likes of Tim Cahill, Daniel McBreen and Ryan McGowan have had decent spells in China, it can become somewhat of a Bermuda Triangle. Trent Sainsbury’s move to Jiangsu Suning is another example; fortunately for the Socceroos centre-back, he was farmed out on loan – to Inter Milan – rather than sold. But clearly the goal posts moved quickly against a player that was only signed in 2016.

The warning signs have been there for years, dating back to Joel Griffiths’ ugly departure from Shanghai Shenhua in 2012.

“You just don’t know – you honestly don’t,” Griffiths told

“You hear stories and think it’s not going to happen to me. Beijing was one of the best clubs and I sort of regret going to Shanghai, the rival, after three years. Beijing were so solid and their payments were on time, like most A-League clubs. They were a super club, but now you can go to (a club like) Liaoning, and they’re renowned (for this) and you hear stories of Australians fighting for their money.

“But players still sign.

Joel Griffiths on ball supported by French International player Nicolas Anelka (L)
Joel Griffiths on ball supported by French International player Nicolas Anelka (L)Source: AFP

“You’re going in blind and hopefully everything works out.

“But (if it goes wrong) you’ve still got the PFA, who will look after you and try get as much money out of the clubs as possible.”

Extraordinarily, Griffiths is still fighting for some of the money owed from his time in China.

“The beauty about the boys’ positions, or anyone with the PFA in Australia, is they will fight for you. Everything goes through them, they have the right people, staff, and have gone from strength to strength for players rights.

James Troisi of Melbourne Victory
James Troisi of Melbourne VictorySource: Getty Images

“They’re in good hands … At the end of the day, the bad thing is it could be a while.”

Griffiths says some players deal with things differently; he continued to train because he still wanted to play – it wasn’t all about the money.

“You’re in a situation where it’s not ideal but where you just have to be a professional and train and sometimes when they do give you excuses then it can be a bit frustrating because they’re telling you one thing and it’s probably another thing altogether.

Argentine striker Carlos Tevez
Argentine striker Carlos TevezSource: AFP

“It depends how you want to handle it – I went to training every day. At the end of the day I wanted to win games. It wouldn’t have been right if money was the only thing holding me back. But everyone’s different.”

He added: “I’m more than confident they will receive (their money eventually). They’re in the CSL. If they don’t pay, they’ll likely get relegated which is what they definitely don’t want because the (club will) lose money in the process.”

Michael Thwaite
Michael ThwaiteSource: Getty Images

The other burning questions from Wednesday’s news.


There will be an immediate clamour to get the pair back to Australia, but given their ambition, they may will likely still look abroad.

Holland started the last season at Adelaide United, a move that didn’t go to plan as the club languished.

FULL LISTS: Your club’s current squad status quo

Kruse would be an asset to any team in Australia should he eye a return, but, would likely command a marquee slot.

On paper, both of Kruse’s former clubs, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory, have vacancies given Fahid Ben Khalfallah’s exit and Brandon Borrello’s likely departure. But, with James Troisi, Besart Berisha, Tommy Oar and Brett Holman already occupying those positions, it would likely take a departure for a door to open for his return. Could Melbourne City, or Western Sydney, look at temping him home?

Griffiths, now in Newcastle Jets’ football department, tips both players to find their feet quickly abroad, but added on Kruse: “We’re always open if he wants to come back here as a marquee for the Jets”.

“I think Robbie wants to go back to Europe.

“I think that’s a good move for him. We’re always here; we’re always interested, I think the mail is he wants to go back to Europe, maybe Germany where he did really well.

“I’d be surprised if he came back to the A-League.

“It’s an interesting one for Jimmy; he was with Newcastle with me when we won (the competition) and he had one of the best work ethics I’ve seen in a footballer.

“It’s one of those things where he’s a No.6 or No.8 but we’re pretty solid in that position.

“With Robbie Kruse, we’re always looking for a winger. It would be ideal to help (striker) Roy O’Donovan and Andrew Nabbout.

“It’s about filling the gaps for what you need. If it was a stopper or defender, we’d love to sit back and talk. But we need to look at players in the right positions we need.

“But haven’t ruled it out altogether – Ernie (Merrick) could turn around and see (Holland) as a No.10.”


Given the paucity of options, and the fact there’s no substitute for raw speed, Kruse is still vital to the Socceroos.

But Ange Postecoglou needs him playing.

He’s played four Chinese Super League games in 2017, after just two starts for Bayer in the first half of the season – in the German Cup, not in the Bundesliga. He was an unused sub five times.

Kruse has had more than his fair share of bad luck, and his ability to rally is best seen by his sterling display for Australia at the Asian Cup.

But since his breakthrough at Fortuna Dusseldorf, and first season at Leverkusen, where he played 15 times in the league, including four starts; two times in the Cup and four substitute cameos in the UEFA Champions League, he has plateaued.

Since the 2014-2015, he has only played 20 games, with just six starts, across Leverkusen, Stuttgart and Liaoning Kaixin.

The move to China came as a bid to get regular game time. At 28 years of age, the next move is absolutely crucial.

Holland, also 28, was a regular and a trophy winner at Austria Wien over four seasons, including nine starts in the Champions League. But, he needs to get his career trajectory back on track after moving from Austria to 2.Bundesliga to the A-League and then China.


The news has implications for the Socceroos as well, particularly with Kruse.

Postecoglou has regularly thrown him a bone regardless of his career status. He may do so again next week, given how important the Saudi Arabia game is, while the Confederations Cup could provide him with a shop window. Regular camps and internationals can provide him with precious minutes, but if someone else puts their hand up, will Postecoglou persist with a player lacking match practice?

Holland was a part of the 2014 World Cup squad but his last appearance was in March 2013.

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