A better pay-day in Asia wasn't enough to lure Michael Zullo away from Sydney FC after the defender rejected offers from abroad to sign a new contract with the Sky Blues.
The lean back four of Sydney FC is one step closer to remaining together for next season after the Sky Blues retained the services of left back Zullo for an additional two seasons. The former Australian international was coming off contract at the end of the season but sealed his future with the club after signing a contract extension on Thursday afternoon that will keep him at Moore Park until May, 2020.
The 29-year-old has enjoyed a return to form and fitness since joining Sydney FC in 2016 and began attracting a flurry of offers from rival clubs and foreign teams to sign for next season on the back of his performances and success with the Sky Blues. Some clubs from South East Asia guaranteed him a higher salary than what he is on at Sydney FC while bigger teams in East Asia dangled the carrot of playing in higher-quality leagues. However, Zullo says he wasn't prepared ot sacrifice his satisfaction, fitness and performances by moving from Sydney.
"I didn't really want to get into looking at stuff in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, it's not for me at this stage of my career. There were some interested opportunities in Japan and Korea but you have to take everything into account and Sydney was what was right for me," Zullo said.
With player welfare in many Asian league's not at the standard of Sydney FC who have the best injury record in the A-League, Zullo was hesitant to put himself at risk of poor physical management like that he experienced while in the Netherlands.
"I don't begrudge someone who makes that decision because everyone is in a different situation and circumstance. My fitness is paramount, playing in a successful team and enjoying my football - they're the three most important things for me," he said. "It would have taken something really, really exceptional to draw me away from Sydney at this stage of my career. I still think we still have a lot more to achieve here. We have the A-League still to finish and the Champions League. If we are successful with our goals then we will be the most successful team in A-League history."
While Sydney FC are Zullo's fourth club in the A-League, it's one where he's felt a strong sense of obligation to remain at the Sky Blues. Rivals Western Sydney Wanderers were among those interested in signing Zullo as a free agent however he says he wasn't interested in moving across town.
"Modern-day football, I think circumstances come up where you have to move around, that's what happens. But when you come to a stage where you're happy, you're performing well, they're treating you well and they've put faith in you, I think a time comes where you have to repay that faith," Zullo said. "It's not going to be life changing to move clubs in the A-League. If a club wants to keep you, you've been successful and they've done right by you, then you shouldn't do the wrong thing by them."
Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold had no hesitations offering Zullo a renewed offer, making him the first player to renew their deal this season.
"Michael is one of the integral cogs in our defensive unit and it's pleasing to have him on board for another two seasons," Arnold said."He's a fantastic player to work with and his presence within the playing group only brings out positives."