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The A-League's marquee conundrum

Newcastle Jets striker Emile Heskey - why everyone gotta be pesky with Heskey? (Image: AAP)
Roar Pro
8th December, 2013
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1562 Reads

The concept of the international marquee player in the A-League is a brilliant idea. Off the field, the benefits are for all to see.

It allows clubs to make national and often international headlines, bringing in exposure that wouldn’t otherwise be forthcoming.

Crowds flock to to see the likes of Del Piero, Yorke, Fowler and even our own Harry Kewell. Sponsors line up to to get their brand associated with these idols and the results for companies are immediate.

“Sydney FC major sponsor Webjet’s media exposure for the month of September was over eight times the average for the same period last year,” reported news.com.au on October 27 last year.

“That’s a direct result of Del Piero-generated coverage, and a potential game-changer in terms of converting exposure footprint into consumer impact.”

Put simply, big name marquees deliver off-field results in a big way.

Lately, however, the on-field situation has shown up a major problem in the international marquee scheme.

The biggest names will always play in Europe, and the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey have entered the A-League in their twilight years.

Benjamin Button these guys are not, and age combined with elite league football has wearied these gentlemen.

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Heskey injured himself in pre-season and only just became a starter in last weekend’s match against Sydney.

Del Piero is in a constant state of flux between injured and “fit enough to play”.

Kewell has had injuries more to do with misfortune, but his body seems to be healing slower.

Shinji Ono has picked up another ‘Shinjury’ and came on off the bench on the weekend.

The week after William Gallas was gasping for breath in his debut, he pulled a ‘troublesome’ calf.

Here is a statistical run down of the minutes played by all the major marquees out of a possible 720 minutes (accurate at time of submission)

Del Piero: 446 mins
Heskey: 155 mins
Ono: 467 mins
Kewell: 66 mins
Gallas: 62 mins* (*from a possible 270)
TOTAL: 1196 of a possible 3150 mins

The statistics don’t lie and they are damning indeed.

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Out of a possible 3150 minutes of we have only seen 1196 minutes of marquee action. That is roughly 40 percent of possible game time from a group of players getting the biggest dollars from their clubs.

You can’t blame the individual for an injury. They are an unfortunate part of any sport but review of the current marquee situation is needed.

There is no point signing a big name player if he going to be sitting on the bench or the treatment table for more time than he is playing.

While there is no easy immediate solution for this conundrum, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Time is all it will take.

Australia will always be a popular destination and as the A-League grows and the turnover increases, we will see the big stars making their way here at an earlier age.

Just as the MLS secured Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and even David Beckham at slightly younger ages, the A-League will one day see players of similar ilk plying the trade at less rusty ages.

Hopefully that day arrives sooner rather than later.

In the mean time, however, managers and CEOs need to choose carefully before paying the big dollars for a big name.

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