Melbourne Victory suffered the worst defeat in their history when they lost 6-1 to Sydney FC last May – but was the game just a defeat or a stain on the club that will remain over the next season?
Player agent Lou Sticca made some fair points when he slammed the concept of A-League clubs ‘borrowing’ players from rivals clubs on short-term deals for the AFC Champions League. There’s no doubt it’s an odd concept, but in many ways it’s also a necessary one.
Sticca’s comments came in light of Sydney FC’s moves for a number of players from fellow A-League clubs including Jade North, Dean Heffernan, Adam D’Apuzzo, Paul Reid, Jamie Coyne, David Williams and Andrew Durante.
In the end, only the latter two signed on, but it all caused quite the stir as Sydney FC appeared to be trying to assemble All Stars FC.
Of course, we have seen short-term loan deals utilised by A-League clubs in the ACL in the past, with Sergio van Dijk moving from Brisbane to Adelaide last year and Nik Mrdja heading from Central Coast to Melbourne too.
But we’ve not seen anything quite to this scale considering the Sky Blues’ lengthy hitlist.
Sticca told The Australian: “I don’t see any value in clubs having a youth league if the young players are blocked by all these loan deals. I think it undermines the value of each club’s brand by having players swapping clubs willy-nilly on loan deals.”
There’s certainly some substance in Sticca’s comments, particularly the latter one.
There’s no doubt it will be an odd scenario for Sydney FC fans in the stands at the SFS cheering on Williams and Durante during the ACL. They may feel a sense that they aren’t really one of us.
And the reality is they aren’t, which is particularly obvious after comments made by Williams this week that he was hoping his Sydney FC stint could provide a platform for him to launch his career overseas again.
It’s fair enough for him to say that, he’s just being honest, but it is admittedly a strange situation.
Sure, they’ll all be in the same corner, trying to get Sydney FC across the line, but there won’t be that same emotional attachment. I believe, more than anything, that will put a fair bit of pressure on the new duo to prove their value fast.
As for Sticca’s former point on youth, you can see where he’s coming from, but perhaps it’s a bit over-simplistic.
Sydney FC are in the business of winning football matches and it’s in their best interests to get some proven players for the Champions League rather than throw some youngsters in at the deep end and hope they swim.
And with the transfer window closed and the ACL’s 3+1 rule in place it makes recruitment difficult, meaning these sides turn to rival A-League clubs for players who are effectively on off-season.
This point is all the more pertinent when you consider Sydney have simply replaced the retiring Hayden Foxe with Durante in the centre of defence, and Shimizu-bound Alex Brosque with Williams in attack.
They are simply looking after their squad and places should still be open to youngsters who are deemed good enough such as Dimi Petratos.
Okay the Sky Blues were linked with a long list of players, but in the end they only signed two players on short-term deals which still leaves doors open for youth. In moderation, these deals have their place, benefitting several parties.
Mark Bosnich entered this debate on Fox Sports FC on Tuesday and while he went off on a tangent about an A-League club one day winning the World Club Cup, he made a fair point that Australian clubs need to do well in Asia for the sake of the league’s standing and credibility.
So it’s in their interests to add proven A-League players to give them every chance of succeeding.
The fact Sydney FC (who finished ninth in the 2010-2011 season) will compete in the ACL, 12 months after being crowned champions adds further complexity to the issue.
In Australia, successful teams inevitably lose talent as has been seen throughout the participation of A-League clubs in the ACL. Nowadays the Sky Blues don’t have the talent which took them to their double success last season, so they do need to strengthen if they are to stand a chance in Asia.
Sticca added: “I personally would prefer to see clubs use their existing rosters and youth teams to draw players from.”
To be honest, so would I but unfortunately it’s unrealistic given the circumstances which A-League clubs face in the ACL.
Sydney have gone from champs to also-rans (like Newcastle did in 2009 and Adelaide in 2010), so they need to bolster their squad and given their foreign quota restrictions, doing so from rival A-League clubs is a necessary evil.
Then again, the question I’ve been asking myself is will those circumstances change next season?
Perhaps this will no longer be an issue if the A-League season changes its start and end times to begin in October and finish in April. No one will be swapping clubs then.
I guess we’ll wait and see.