JETS coach Carl Robinson believes Bernie Ibini can have the same impact as Diego Castro, Alessandro Diamanti or any of the other stars in the A-League.
Ibini inked a one-year extension with the Jets on Tuesday and shapes as a key figure in the Robinson revolution.
"People say the difference between teams in the A-League is the foreigners." Robinson told the Newcastle Herald said. "That might have been the case when the salary cap was x y z. Now it is changing, we might not have the money to sign a Diego Castro or Alessandro Diamanti. If we haven't, I need to find my own version.
"Bernie might be my Diego Castro. Bernie might be my Alessandro Diamanti.
"He opens doors and does things differently.
"What my challenge with Bernie will be is to get more goals and get more assists, which I know he can do. He has done it with me before."
Ibini spent 18 months under Robinson at the Vancouver Whitecaps in Major League Soccer in the US.
He reunited with the former Welsh midfielder at the Jets in February and once fit showed what he was capable of post the COVID break, highlight by a stinging strike in the season-finishing 3-0 triumph over Wellington.
"Bernie is a threat," Robinson said. "He just needs to enjoy his football and get back to playing regularly. If he does that, Bernie will score goals and create goals. He was one of our better players in the four games."
Ibini made appearances for the Jets and added two assist to his wonder strike and is confident of increasing his output next season.
"Scoring my first goal for Newcastle on Thursday night was a great feeling and getting the chance to spend another season here is, too," the attacker said.
"I'm enjoying working under Carl again, and I'm confident he can continue to bring out the best in me.
"I've really felt the love from the fans since I joined the Jets and I'm looking forward to repaying it next season."
Robinson said Tuesday's announcement was the culmination of talks that kicked off three months ago.
His retention will help cover the expected departure of Dimi Petratos, who only has to pass a medical to complete a transfer to Saudi Arabia.
Robinson confirmed that captain Nigel Boogaard and Welsh midfielder Joe Ledley were next on the priority list.
They are among a host of players on and off contract who Robinson will talk to this week regarding their future.
However, final decisions are unlikely to be made until the 2020-21 salary cap is determined.
Meanwhile, a limited crowd will attend the A-League grand final to be held at Sydney's Bankwest Stadium on August 30.
FFA announced on Tuesday all five finals matches will be played at the Parramatta venue starting with the elimination finals this Saturday and Sunday.
Those two matches will be played behind closed doors but limited numbers of spectators will be allowed in the following mid-week semi-finals and the grand final, with crowds up to 7500.
The finals begin on Saturday when Wellington Phoenix will face either Perth Glory or Brisbane Roar, depending on the result of Wednesday's final regular season match between Western United and Melbourne City.
United will face either the Glory or the Roar in the second elimination final on Sunday.
Premiers Plater winners Sydney FC and second-placed City have already qualified for the semi-finals, which will be played as a double-header on Wednesday, August 26.
The video assistant referee (VAR) system will be reintroduce for all finals matches.
VAR has been absent during the post-COVID restart of the league in July, drawing criticism from Wellington coach Ufuk Talay after his team was on the wrong end of some crucial refereeing decisions in a loss to Sydney last month.
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