GOLD Coast United are set for a showdown with American striker Alex Smith after the club moved to pay out his contract to make way for former Blackburn Rovers striker Maceo Rigters.
Smith's agent Ante Alilovic confirmed that his client - who only signed with United in June from Sydney Olympic and is yet to play a competitive game - had been asked to accept a payout in exchange for the immediate termination of his contract.
Gold Coast had already filled their quota of five international players but coach Miron Bleiberg is believed to have been unimpressed with the American's pre-season form and is after another player to complement new arrival Dylan Macallister.
That target is ex-Wellington Phoenix trialist Rigters, who turned down a deal with the New Zealand club last week after they could not meet his wage demands.
But the Dutchman can only join United if Smith accepts a payout - and Alilovic said he wouldn't be doing so until both parties reached an appropriate settlement.
"I'm not going to de-register the player until he gets what he needs," said Alilovic.
"We're not after a figure in particular, more an arrangement that's fair for both parties. Alex just wants a conversation (with the club).
"I've got 500 missed calls on my phone from (GCU CEO) Clive (Mensink) and Miron. It's chaos, it's a joke.
"Of course it doesn't sit well with me or Alex. He hasn't been dealt with appropriately with the decision they made. What can you do?"
The stunning double-switch comes just days after Miron Bleiberg moved two senior players back onto youth contracts to make way for two Eritrean internationals who were declared refugees by the Australian Government.
Alilovic said that other players on the Gold Coast were also unhappy with the way Smith had been dealt with.
"Of course Alex is upset but he's not the only one. Other players are unhappy too," he said.
"They've been calling the club saying 'this isn't the right decision. Alex is a good player and a nice kid. It shouldn't have been like this'.
"He's been given no opportunity at all. He did his ankle at training and that didn't help him."
"He hasn't even played against A-League opposition yet. Forget about playing these Sunshine Coast teams and over-35 teams in pre-season, there's no doubt he can play in the A-League.
"Miron's done his homework. It's not like he had to make the decision (to sign Alex) in a matter of hours. The kid was up there for a week (on trial) and Miron even came down to Sydney to look at him.
"He can't sign for another club now, everyone has nearly completed their rosters and to make it harder, he's a foreigner. It's very harsh."
The news comes as yet another bump in the career of 26-year-old Smith, who has had to deal with some wretched luck over the years.
After trialing with English sides Shrewsbury Town and Walsall, Smith returned to his college team in America only to be declared ineligible by the NCAA, forcing him to turn pro early in his development.