A-League now on global radar: de Bohun
A-League boss Damien de Bohun says Sydney FC’s landmark deal with Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero has created an unprecedented level of interest among fellow international footballers and has transformed the A-League as we know it.
Del Piero’s move to the Sky Blues created global headlines this month and the league has since been associated with various big names.
On Wednesday former England international Emile Heskey joined the Newcastle Jets, pending a medical, on a reported one-year deal worth $1 million.
And ex-Germany captain Michael Ballack has been linked with A-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers, who are reported to have had talks with the former Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen midfielder’s agent.
Ballack’s signing would complete a stunning trio for the A-League, but while the club are reluctant to confirm such talks, de Bohun said the fact he’s even remotely linked to a move to Australia is big enough and demonstrates the huge flow-on effect Del Piero is having.
“There’s no doubt that there’s an increased awareness in the player market internationally since Del Piero’s signing, and yes we’ve been getting a whole lot of new interest from agents,” de Bohun said.
“The real change has been that players and player agents are contacting clubs and the FFA as opposed to us chasing them down, they’re the ones showing the interest and taking that initiative.
“There’s all sorts of rumours flying around but the fact that someone like Ballack would even contemplate coming to the A-League is huge.
“Four or five years ago that wasn’t a conversation people were even prepared to have.”
De Bohun admits it was a “dream come true” to snag 37-year-old Azzuri legend Del Piero but not one he ever thought was out of reach.
What he didn’t anticipate however was the interest it would create in the league and the excitement it would generate among the fans.
“We’ve had broadcasters in Italy beaming Del Piero’s first interview here live and looking at showing his A-League games live,” he said.
“So that in itself is changing the landscape of the league dramatically just in that isolated situation.
“But now that there are players like Heskey and possibly Ballack showing genuine interest demonstrates that the A-League is not just on the radar, it’s being genuinely considered as a league that players want to be involved.
“So it’s fair to say that this level of interest and excitement surrounding the league is something I’ve never seen before.
“To see football occupying the media space during the NRL and AFL finals, and creating a frenzy of sorts within the Australian population has been massive.
“It really gives us a platform to build on to really take this league to new heights.”
Sydney kick off their season on October 6 away to Wellington but play their first home game at Allianz Stadium the following week against Newcastle with the prospect of a Del Piero-Heskey clash creating a mouth-watering encounter for football fans.
“I’d love to see a sell-out, but if we could get over 30,000 that would be phenomenal,” Sydney FC chief executive Tony Pignata said.
“And if Heskey is confirmed with Newcastle then you better get your tickets quick.”© AAP 2013