Jordy Buijs misses out on Sydney FC's AFC Champions League squad
Graham Arnold has sacrificed Dutch defender Jordy Buijs from his AFC Champions League squad so he can unleash Sydney FC's formidable front four on the continent.
In what he says was one of the toughest decisions he's had to make, Arnold omitted one of his four incumbent imports for the Sky Blues' campaign starting next week, with ACL rules allowing for only three non-Asian players.
Milos Ninkovic, Adrian Mierzejewski and Bobo made the cut and will combine with skipper Alex Brosque in a bid to realise the club's ambition of becoming Asian champions at the fourth attempt.
Portuguese winger Fabio Ferreira was also left out, though the new recruit was aware he'd been signed to play exclusively in the A-League.
Buijs is an integral part of the defending champions' starting line-up, having played every minute of every match this season.
But his sidelining leaves the off-contract centre-back's future under a cloud amid negotiations for an extension after the club recently offered him a new two-year deal.
From an ACL perspective, new central defensive signing Ben Warland allows Arnold some defensive flexibility and it's understood the priority was ensuring the flow of his free-scoring front four is not disrupted against a challenging group.
"All four of our overseas signings have been outstanding for us this season and all four deserve to be playing in the tournament," Arnold said.
"Making this decision has been one of the hardest things I've had to do as a coach and it is one of the toughest selections I will ever have to make.
"Jordy is a fantastic player for our club and has been central to our A-League and FFA Cup successes over the last year."
While dispirited, Buijs accepted the call.
"I understand how tough this decision is," Buijs said. "I am disappointed because I had a big drive to play in the Champions League.
"I am still fully committed to my teammates and I want to help them continue our success this season."
Sydney start their ACL campaign next Wednesday against Matt Jurman's South Korea side Suwon Bluewings.
Rounding out Group H is J-League outfit Kashima Antlers and Chinese heavyweights Shanghai Shenhua.
Should the Sky Blues progress to the round of 16, as they did in 2016, Arnold will be free to change his squad.
Meanwhile, Melbourne Victory's selected Kosta Barbarouses, Leroy George and Besart Berisha as their three ACL visa players, meaning fringe Argentinian midfielder Matias Sanchez misses out.
SYDNEY FC'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SQUAD:
Goalkeepers: Andrew Redmayne, Alex Cisak, Thomas Heward-Belle
Defenders: Aaron Calver, Ben Warland, Alex Wilkinson, Michael Zullo, Rhyan Grant, Luke Wilkshire, William Mutch, Patrick Flottman, Jackson Bandiera
Midfielders: Josh Brillante, Paulo Retre, Anthony Kalik, David Carney, Milos Ninkovic, Adrian Mierzejewski, Brandon O'Neill, Christopher Zuvela, Marco Tilio
Forwards: Bobo, Alex Brosque, Matt Simon, Charles Lokolingoy, Jeremy Cox