Victory for Viduka as striker heads back to Australia

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The Independent Football

Melbourne Victory are in talks with former Middlesbrough and Newcastle striker Mark Viduka over a possible guest player spell with the A-League champions.

The 33-year-old had talks with Fulham and Portsmouth after his contract with Newcastle expired at the end of last season, but his agent has confirmed Melbourne-born Viduka will return to Australia after 11 years in Europe.

Melbourne, who will participate in next year's Asian Champions League, have emerged as leading contenders with chairman Geoff Lord exploring all options while considering the salary cap restrictions in place in the Australian top-flight.

"One could use [Viduka] as a guest player, one could use him in lots of ways," Lord told The Age.

"Three years ago he was appointed international ambassador to Melbourne Victory, so he has some allegiances here. We don't know what that might lead to until we explore the situation. We have talked to him about a couple of opportunities, not just playing."

Striker Archie Thompson is currently signed as Melbourne's marquee player so his wages do not count towards the league's salary cap, meaning Viduka's deal would need to be carefully negotiated, although there is scope after striker Danny Allsopp moved to Qatar earlier this month.

Viduka, who also played for Celtic and Leeds, still hopes to represent Australia at next year's World Cup although he ruled himself out of the last three qualifiers in June to allow him to consider his future and has not featured for the national team since the 2007 Asian Cup quarter-final against Japan.

The West Ham manager, Gianfranco Zola, has celebrated a year in the job by thanking chief executive Scott Duxbury for helping keep his best players at Upton Park.

Zola may have lost Craig Bellamy to Manchester City but England trio Matthew Upson, Robert Green and Carlton Cole are still Hammers players, as is Scott Parker, despite the backdrop of financial uncertainty at the club.

After finishing ninth in the Premier League last season, Zola is pleased with his first year and wants to build on it. "It's been very good and is an achievement, but I want to share it with the club," he said. "[Technical director] Gianluca Nani and Scott Duxbury have been brilliant. They believed in the project and never gave up on the idea of keeping the best players and trying to improve the team. I appreciate that.

"I was lucky because I had fantastic people on my side. [First-team coach] Steve Clarke has been massive in this way, and also [first-team coach] Kevin Keen and [fitness coach] Antonio Pintus."