|By STEVE ORME
Shinji Ono has confirmed his desire to remain with the Western Sydney Wanderers next season in a major piece of good news for the fledgling club.
The Japanese superstar comes off-contract at the end of the current campaign but is hopeful of at least one more year with the competition newcomers.
"I want to stay, I love it here," Ono said before training at Blacktown on Thursday.
"I want to stay but I don't know [what's happening yet], I think my agent is talking with the club. I don't know, I'm not sure."
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic confirmed he wants to re-sign the 33-year-old but says the club is in no hurry to get the deal done.
"All along we've said that we're very happy with Shinji and obviously there's a process that needs to be taken, but he knows the club's desire and he knows my desire of wanting to keep Shinji and we'll see if we can make that happen," Popovic said.
"... with Shinji we haven't spoken about any terms as yet but he knows our desire is to keep him.
"The process has started now and hopefully both parties will be happy and we'll see him here again next year.
"There's no time frame on that, I mean I'd be happy if it was the end of the season, I wouldn't be worried when it is [done].
"We're not going to rush anything and as long as he's happy and he's happy playing, we're happy with how the process is going and that's the main thing."
Popovic says he cannot fault his marquee man's form this season but believes his best is yet to come.
"I've been happy with him since day one. You can look at in a few different ways, we saw some great things from him early on but the difference is he wasn't able to do it for long periods because of his lack of match fitness and his lack of fitness when he got here," he said.
"Slowly he's got stronger and fitter, and he always had the talent, but now he's just showing it for longer periods.
"He showed again on the weekend in a tough game for us, especially in the first half, his leadership and quality in the second half shone through and he played a major part in overturning that 1-0 deficit."
The man himself is also happy with his progress since arriving in Australia on the eve of the season opener.
"I'm very fit and physically and mentally everything is ok," Ono said.
"I'm just waiting to find out [if I'm starting this weekend]. I don't know if I will start or not, the head coach Tony will make the decisions so I'm waiting."