Usain Bolt is not a footballer and never will be

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The sprinter's trial period in Australia looks to be coming to an end, with little to no chance of him becoming a professional player

Why stop at Usain Bolt?

Why don’t the Central Coast Mariners offer a contract to Conor McGregor and Ed Sheeran as well?

If all that matters is the commercial potential of having a celebrity on the books, then surely they could aim even higher than Bolt?

It would appear on the evidence of the last few days that the Mariners management, as well as everyone else connected to football in Australia, know fine and well that Bolt is not good enough nor will ever be good enough for a career in professional football.

However, his allure is strong – too strong, in fact – for them to make a clean break from negotiations.

What they would like is an association with Bolt – and the chance to sell all those BOLT 95 replica shirts no doubt – without actually having to play him.

Coach Mike Mulvey made it perfectly clear on Sunday night that Bolt was nowhere near the standard required to play for his team and that any contract offer from the boardroom was unknown to him.

The club have since confirmed talks are ongoing but it is unlikely that Bolt – who has been asked to stay away from training for now – will ever lace boots as a professional in Australia.

This is not the exactly the Juventus of the A-League either. This is the team who finished rock bottom last season and whose owner refuses to pay the full salary cap, so low are expectations.

Bolt may well have scored two goals on his first start but those were the third and fourth goals in a facile 4-0 pre-season friendly win.

Usain Bolt Central Coast Mariners

And if you want an indicator of the standard of the opposition, Macarthur South West United comprised a group of A-League hopefuls. Maybe Bolt was on the wrong side that night because one place he definitely does not belong is up front for a professional football team.

There’s a charity game every year at Old Trafford called Soccer Aid and Bolt captained a team there earlier this year. It’s full of celebrities and features some former players. It’s for a noble cause; £6.7 million ($8.7m) was raised for Unicef projects around the world on the back of the game played in June.

Even at that modest standard, though, Bolt fails to stand out. And that’s when he’s going up against Gordon Ramsey, never mind Giorgio Chiellini. That is where the story should end for Bolt’s football career. 

Previous training stints at Borussia Dortmund, at Stromsgodset in Norway and at Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa all came to nothing; no doubt Bolt talked a good game but any mooted career in football usually falls down when he actually has to play.

Undeterred, Bolt and his agent Ricky Simms press on. They know what his name is worth. He earns tens of millions every year from his commercial endorsements.

And the latest suggestions from Australia are that Bolt’s people were looking for something in the region of £1.6m ($2.1m) to sign for the Mariners. 

Usain Bolt Central Coast Mariners

Only a fraction of A-League players are earning more than £100k ($140k) and those are professional players with a lifetime of experience and expertise within the game. They are not 32-year-old trialists with no background whatsoever in the sport.

The Mariners, meanwhile, were only prepared to offer up to £80k ($105k) – still an unbelievable salary for a player as limited as Bolt – which was alas nowhere near the mark. This alone is staggering.

If Bolt was indeed serious about making a career in football then why not play for a baseline salary and take it from there? He's already richer than all his team-mates put together and is categorically not playing just to put food on the table.

To ask – as a rank amateur – for a place in the team is one thing but to demand £1.6m ($2.1m) when all the evidence suggests he is not up to the job is quite another. 

There have also been suggestions that perhaps Football Federation Australia (FFA) could have delved into a marquee fund to help prop up the Mariners' offer but the latest signs are not positive.

That money – provided by broadcaster Fox Sports – recently helped Melbourne Victory sign Japan superstar Keisuke Honda. The key difference here being that Honda can play football and Bolt cannot.

Last week, Bolt turned down an offer from Valletta in Malta, where the owners, Sanban Group, are intent on launching an assault on the Champions League in the coming seasons.

Perhaps that offer put the Mariners under pressure to offer a deal of their own as they would not want a gimmick the dimensions of Bolt to escape unexploited. He may be a bad player but that doesn’t mean they are content to let anyone else have him.

There are also considerable reservations over the entire circus in Australian football circles. Players have worked damn hard their whole lives for a crack at professional football and could see their efforts amount to nothing as a team’s limited salary budget is frittered away on a novelty act.

Usain Bolt Central Coast Mariners

The Mariners have got their publicity but it's out of hand now. When rumours begin to appear that Bolt is set to appear on the next FIFA 19 patch, then you know we’re in 'The Twilight Zone'.

The episode brings to mind Michael Jordan’s foray into baseball in 1994, following his first retirement from the NBA. He signed with the Chicago White Sox, who had the same owner – Jerry Reinsdorf – as his basketball team, the Chicago Bulls.

The 31-year-old Jordan, therefore, got a leg up from an owner who did not want him escaping from his clutches. His fantasy – like Bolt’s – was indulged on the strength of his name.

Jordan hadn’t played baseball in 15 years – since he was in high school – but wanted to fulfil a promise to his late father, who always thought he had the tools to make it in the majors.

He was assigned to the Birmingham Barons, an AA class team regarded as a place to find and nurture up-and-coming Major League talent. He upset a player called Charles Poe, who was bumped down to Class A in order to make way for the already wealthy Jordan.

He was never close to making an impact, let alone becoming good enough to find his way to the major leagues. He aborted his whimsical quest less than a year later, fearing that he would be called up as a replacement player during the 1994-95 Major League strike.

Back then, coaches and players spoke about Jordan’s hard work, discipline, and improvement. Those are all worthy traits in a kid or an emerging athlete but you need much, much more to crack the professional ranks.

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It sounds very similar to what some are now saying about Bolt. Team-mates and coaches have talked up his desire and his development but there are not many voices out there praising what he can do on the ball or off it for that matter.

As an eight-time Olympic gold medallist, Bolt is rightfully regarded as one of the best athletes the world has ever seen. But he is taking up space and causing a distraction.

He’s not a footballer and will never be one.

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