Jol hints at interest in Hughes

Alessandro Del Piero is in no rush to finalise his Sydney FC

future as he pours all his energy into helping resurrect the team’s

dismal A-League season.

Del Piero’s stay in the harbour city beyond this term is still

unclear, with the Sky Blues yet to decide whether they will take up

the option of a second year for the 38-year-old striker.

The former Italy international has been a shining light in what

has been a poor campaign for the two-time champions, who are bottom

of the standings with just three wins from 12 games.

Del Piero is loving life in Sydney, but wants to put contract

talks aside to focus on hauling the team up the table.

“I have spent a really good time here,” the 2006 World Cup

winner said.

“We have time to discuss that but at the moment the best thing

for me, the club, the players and everyone is to concentrate on the

games.

“We have to worry about this next period because it’s very

difficult for us and we have to put all our energy, mental and

physical, into it.

“I’m not worried about other things. I’m really enjoying it…

but now have to win a couple more games for more enjoyment.”

Asked when he hoped to have his future resolved, Del Piero said:

“Everything is clear for me and the club.

“We can do it earlier than what we think, but the contract is

not a stress for me.

“I’m really happy to be here. I want to put all my knowledge and

heart into this at the moment and not to talk about (a new

deal).”

The Sky Blues are six points adrift of the finals spots ahead of

a tough three-game stretch which starts against league leaders

Central Coast at Allianz Stadium on Thursday.

Tough away trips against Adelaide and Perth all follow within 10

days in a period that is likely to define the club’s season.

Benteke struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League when he

arrived from Genk for ?7million this August, but the Belgian has

been on a hot streak of form recently to take his season tally to

eight goals.

Vertonghen knows Benteke well from their time together with a

Belgium side littered with individual brilliance, and he knows he

will have to be at his best to keep the towering striker quiet.

“It doesn’t surprise me that he has done well,” Vertonghen

said.

“He now feels the confidence of the team, the crowd and the

manager.

“You could see that in the last two games for the national team

(when Benteke scored in wins over Serbia and Scotland). He was very

good then and I think that Aston Villa made the right choice to

sign him.

“He is very good in the air and he can score. He will be a very

tough player to play against.”

Vertonghen may not be pitted in to direct combat against his

compatriot, however, as he could once again be deployed at

left-back, where he has played since Benoit Assou-Ekotto suffered a

knee injury in September.

With Assou-Ekotto nearing full fitness, Vertonghen hopes to move

back to his favoured position of centre-half.

When asked whether he found it frustrating playing at full-back,

the 25-year-old said: “Yes, and the manager knows.

“I prefer centre-back but I want to help the team.

“It would be good to have Benoit back but not only for that

reason as he is one of the best left-backs in the league.”

Villas-Boas, whose team dropped to sixth in the Premier League

on Saturday with a 0-0 draw against Stoke, will also be without

Clint Dempsey for this evening’s game as he has a groin strain.

Villa’s 8-0 defeat at Chelsea led to renewed fear among the

Villa Park faithful that their team could be destined for

relegation this term.

Villa sit just three points above the relegation zone, but Spurs

right-back Kyle Walker, who spent half a season on loan at Villa

Park two seasons ago, thinks they will survive.

“I think they will be all right,” the 22-year-old told Spurs TV

Online.

“I think they have proved that they can dig in at home.

“I watched them against Manchester United (when Villa

surrendered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2).

“The result didn’t go their way but they are young, energetic

and hungry to win games.”

The 17-year-old’s impressive displays in the Championship has

seen him called up to the England Under-21s squad and linked to a

move away from Pride Park.

Arsenal, Liverpool and even Barcelona have been mentioned as

potential suitors and Jol has now confirmed Hughes is being

monitored by Fulham.

“Believe me, there is probably 10 clubs in the Premier League

having a look at him,” the Dutchman said.

“He is one of these wonderful talents so he is always on lists.

If you have a good scouting system, he will always be on the list

but we will see.”

Fulham have been left short in central midfield following the

summer departures of Mousa Dembele, Danny Murphy and Dickson

Etuhu.

With Mahamadou Diarra soon to head off to the African Nations

Cup with Mali, there have also been suggestions Fulham could move

for Inter Milan’s McDonald Mariga.

“I could easily say I don’t know him but he is the brother of

the Celtic boy [Victor Wanyama]” Jol said.

“He is an interesting player but I have to be honest and say

we’re not looking at him. We did a couple of years ago.”

Meanwhile, is is understood Fulham are closing in on Standard

Liege goalkeeper Sinan Bolat.

The Turkey international has been training with the Cottagers

for the past month as he completes his recovery from long-term

injury.

Bolat’s potential arrival raises questions over the future of

40-year-old Mark Schwarzer and deputy David Stockdale.

Schwarzer’s current deal runs out at the end of the season,

while the latter recently spent a spell on loan at Championship

high-fliers Hull.