The Roar
The Roar

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The A-League transit lounge - pop in some time

Andres Iniesta, even at his age, will be a key man for Spain at the World Cup.(AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)
Expert
14th May, 2018
28
1473 Reads

The rather fleeting and unsuccessful appearance of Massimo Maccarone in the A-League was a calculated gamble by Brisbane Roar.

It ultimately proved something of a failure, with the Italian never really providing the penetration or goals for which John Aloisi had hoped.

But that’s okay. Foreigners always arrive in Australia with a sense of the unknown and the league continues to be a little fluky in terms of pulling the right rein when it comes to imported players.

Sydney FC have nailed things over the last few years with Milos Ninkovic, Adrian Mierzejewski and Bobo proving their worth. Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United found peaches in Leroy George and Johan Absalonsen this season and the great Danes, Michael Jakobsen and Thomas Kristensen more than earnt their money.

If due diligence is undertaken, players such as these are on the market and if found, can be tempted to our shores.

Sadly, permanency and long term deals are not a feature of the A-League with Thomas Broich and Diego Castro proving something of exceptions when it comes to the international A-League stars.

Brisbane Roar player Thomas Broich

The Roar defeated the Wanderers. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Only yesterday, the news of Michael Jakobsens’ farewell came through.

That lack of permanency creates some of the cynicism and scepticism from those on the periphery of Australian football.

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Hard core A-League fans realise the limitations of a $2.928 million salary cap and the reality of the transient footballer; playing out much of his days as a journeyman.

Moving from league to league as father time ticks away and players look to secure a good pay day prior to retirement, lessens the chances of visitors spending long periods in Australia.

The image of the professional footballer with a small kit bag and two legs as his set of tools; shopping his way around the planet to play the game he loves, has always appealed to me. It is something that has been a historical reality in the A-League and will continue to be so until the clubs have access to and are permitted to spend, larger sums on players.

In the medium term, Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey, Tim Cahill and Dwight York-style signings will remain as short sighted attempts to spike interest, attendance and exposure and will achieve varying levels of success.

Tim Cahill

Some will hit the proverbial nail on the head such as Del Piero in Sydney and others like Maccarone will be wide of the mark. In recent weeks, another name has loomed as a potential visitor to the A-League transit lounge.

Andres Iniesta is 34 and ripe for the picking when it comes to a season or two in Australia. Why wouldn’t he? Just as players like Roy O’Donovan, Daniel Adlung and Ninkovic have seen the climate, lifestyle and cultural benefits of life down under, so may Iniesta if the FFA can lure him to our shores.

With a reported Barcelona salary of around five million euro, to say he is a little out of our financial league is an understatement. Yet there are emotional and business considerations that may allow a little ‘massaging’ during the negotiations, with Iniesta’s love of wine lying at the heart of the FFA’s potential leverage.

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It’s unlikely.

Keisuke Honda is three years younger, not happy in his current situation and would be a perfect Asian fit for the A-League. Our connection with Honda in international play would only add weight and depth to our competition.

If by some remarkable coup the FFA is able to announce both as signings for next season, the A-League might finally make the sort of waves it has failed to create in recent years.

The FFA’s suggestions that contingency plans to nab Honda might be called upon should the man from Barcelona decide to spend his next season or two elsewhere, tells us all we need to know.

However, an A-League competition with Diego Castro, Daniel Adlung, Bruno Fornaroli, Ronny Vargas, Johan Absalonsen, Eric Bautheac, the Sydney trio and Iniesta and Honda for good measure would well and truly whet the appetite of fans. It may also kill off some of the annual conjecture around the league.

As the long season battled through its middle third with the usual criticism levelled at depth, attendance and flat out quality, Australia’s biggest league faced the same headlines in 2018 that it has encountered for some time.

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The finals re-energised the coverage, with Newcastle to thank for much of the interest. It was such a shame that things went seriously pear shaped on grand final today.

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However things play out over the next ten days or so, David Gallop will be sweating on another short term signing to fan the flames of A-League interest. No doubt, people would come from miles to watch the players in question. Whether it be Iniesta, Honda or a yet to be announced secret, the league does need an injection.

One of the key decisions would be where to put a new marquee superstar with the potential to garner such interest. Some might suggest the place of most need. Wellington? Highly unlikely.

The Melbourne and Sydney markets would provide the most obvious impact in terms of crowds yet that is the last thing the A-League needs right now.

Brisbane might be a cosy fit. Marco Kurz would be ecstatic with the services of Honda in Adelaide or perhaps we should give the people of the Central Coast the boost they need and set Iniesta and Honda up in a penthouse suite in Gosford?

Let’s hope a positive deal is eventually done for the A-League; one that forces itself onto the desk of free-to-air news producers. Whatever does unfold, it will be another period of growth for the A-League and hopefully the latest stars enjoy their stay.

If only we had the bucks to keep them here for a little longer.