The A-League transit lounge – pop in some time

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

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    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (28)

    • May 15th 2018 @ 7:05am
      Onside said | May 15th 2018 @ 7:05am | ! Report

      The trick in part at least with marquee players is to make good sides better,
      rather than an ordinary side good.

      Massimo Maccarone for example , would have been a hit at say Sydney
      surrounded by like talent, but he got lost in Brisbane, injury list et al

      As most marquee players have a few miles under their belt, they are no
      longer at age where they can do the heavy lifting. (and play in summer !)

    • Roar Guru

      May 15th 2018 @ 7:27am
      Griffo said | May 15th 2018 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      Honda for the Jets 🙏🏼 – the headlines alone would be worth it…

      …but with Vargas resigning that’s not going to happen.

      Jets are also working hard to keep McGree in extended lone for next season.

      In the end I just hope the clubs are happy with who they get assigned with…or the players for that matter.

      Gallop jumping the shark for the ‘nix with Honda (Squires).

    • Roar Rookie

      May 15th 2018 @ 7:48am
      Waz said | May 15th 2018 @ 7:48am | ! Report

      I’m not sure why Maccarone features so heavily in this article?

      Keeping the best players longer has to be a goal of the competition yes, but Maccarone was always a one-season signing surely? Probably done with one eye on the marketing potential as well (they misjudged that one lol).

      Stuart – you’ve dropped in to “Sydney journo mode” here, it’s almost like you didn’t watch Roar play last season unless they were playing, err, Sydney?

      Maccarone was not the problem – he started 29 games, scored 10 goals, and created 5 goal assists (only 7 players scored more goals than he did, and only 6 provided more assists).

      The failure was around Maccarone who throughout the season demonstrated some beautiful touches most Australian players are simply incapable of doing. As Onside says, had he played in a better side he would have scored more and we’d take a different view on his skills; but the only players to standout in a side focussed on defending but playing poorly are those in the back-third … hence Young got player of the year and post season the players that impressed fans the most are all defenders – Avraam, O’Toole, Pepper alongside Young.

      Our Bobo in Roars team last year and he’d be lucky to get 10.

      What’s this article about again??

      • Columnist

        May 15th 2018 @ 9:49am
        Stuart Thomas said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

        Waz, he was just a starting point for the piece. I specifically used the phrase ‘something of a failure’, because there were some good moments and labelled the investment as a calculated gamble. Not a scathing assessment.

        I am interested in the short term stays that seem to make it tough for fans to develop real connections with their team. People in Brisbane and across the country with never forget Broich, the star he was. Castro is starting to build something similar after four years of quality.

        But most marquees seem to be here one minute and gone the next. Some because they weren’t that good and others due to better offers or other personal factors.

        Players becoming part of the furniture would add much to the A-League. More Berisha’s, Broich’s and Ninkovic’s that the fans feel connected to.

        It all comes back to the dollar of course, any marquee who shows a lot will be sought elsewhere in Asia. Would be nice to have guys here for 4-5 years rather than 1-2. Buijs, is the latest in the list and it is great to hear that Jakobsen is staying.

        I cheered the Roar on when their players returned and called them early for the finals. Loved watching them fight back from the depths. My wife would leave me in a second for JA and I can’t blame her. Nice looking fella.

        • May 15th 2018 @ 2:44pm
          Kris said | May 15th 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

          It isn’t just cash. It is also the limited roster spots. In most cases if you want to bring-in a foreigner, you have to ship one out first. Particularly when you start fiddling about with the salary cap implications.

      • May 15th 2018 @ 9:56am
        Lionheart said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        Waz, remember this
        but he was lazy or maybe tired. He missed a lot where a bit of speed and effort, or an earlier run would have delivered. I hope our young guys, Brady, Ahkbar, Daggers (where is he?) learnt some of the good things from him.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 15th 2018 @ 1:20pm
          Waz said | May 15th 2018 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

          Shortly after ADP arrived he was asked what he thought of the HAL and he said something like “Australians run too much” … so what we see as lazy, Italians see as pragmatic.

          To this day I’m still not sure what the rationale for signings was last season; the year before crowds were up big time, we’d finished third for the second year running, and this was the season to kick on … something or someone just stuck Roar into reverse gear.

          • May 15th 2018 @ 5:44pm
            Lionheart said | May 15th 2018 @ 5:44pm | ! Report

            yes indeed, wasn’t it the year before that when we played the last round v MV in Melbourne. A win and we were premiers and we would have past MV in the number of times premier stakes, and K Muscat came out and said, not at our home ground will our record be broken, so they defended, and defended, and defended, and we each got a point 0-0, and AU won the premiership.

      • May 15th 2018 @ 9:49pm
        pacman said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:49pm | ! Report

        Waz,you can also refer to Maccarone’s defensive contributions whilst playing for Roar. He was invariably in the penalty area mix when Roar was defending corners or free kicks. I am not a statistician, but from observation, he made more clearances than did many of his defender team mates.

        And after performing his defensive duties, the 38 year Maccarone was then expected to accelerate to his lone striker position. After regaining his striking position, he would often enjoy coping with sub standard passes.

        Little wonder Maccarone appeared somewhat non-plussed when Roar attacking moves resulted in – well, nothing.

        In the business world, an under or inappropriately utilised asset. Equally aplicable in the sporting world.


    • May 15th 2018 @ 8:32am
      Fadida said | May 15th 2018 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      Honda is a fine player but not a bums on seats marquee, unless planted in Sydney, among a larger Asian population

      • Columnist

        May 15th 2018 @ 10:32am
        Mike Tuckerman said | May 15th 2018 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        Asian population? Can’t see too many Koreans getting out to watch a Japanese player go around. Or do Aussie fans flock to AAMI Park just to watch Kosta Barbarouses?

        • Columnist

          May 15th 2018 @ 10:40am
          Stuart Thomas said | May 15th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

          Hi Mike, I read your excellent piece yesterday and realised when I wrote this on Sunday that we must have been thinking similar things.

        • May 15th 2018 @ 1:44pm
          reuster75 said | May 15th 2018 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

          Engaging the Asian population could work if we picked the right Asian population – Iran. I’ll never forget going to AAMI park to watch Iran against Kuwait in the Asian Cup and being astonished at the huge turn out from Iranian fans (having done my best to erase 1997 from my memory). Could there be a chance of maybe luring some Iranian players that are close to the end of their career to play in Australia? How many of those fans that turned out back in 2015 have we engaged with since then and do we know if they follow the a-league? Surely that’s a growth area right there?

          • May 15th 2018 @ 2:00pm
            reuster75 said | May 15th 2018 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

            meant to say Iran v Bahrain match

            • Roar Rookie

              May 15th 2018 @ 9:13pm
              Stevo said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

              I was at the game and the atmosphere was fantastic. They love football and it showed. Daniel Arzani is their man and he plays for Melbourne City 🙂

        • May 15th 2018 @ 2:21pm
          fadida said | May 15th 2018 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

          There is a larger Japanese population in Sydney I’m guessing than in Newcastle or Melbourne Mike?

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2018 @ 1:11pm
        Griffo said | May 15th 2018 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

        It might be now that ‘bums on seats’ marquees are out of the leagues price range, while the next tier, good but not star name for a well known club, might not be?

        Although when the J.League finishes with Iniesta a la Del Piero maybe…🤔

        Being Japanese I’m not sure Honda would fit in with the Ledman Group but I could be reading far too much into that and then some.

        McKinna indicated the Jets aren’t rolling in it to get another marquee, and they certainly weren’t considering Iniesta even with media speculation buzzing around the Jets.

        I’m just going to hope I’m wrong and Honda ends up in Newy #headinthesand

      • May 15th 2018 @ 9:14pm
        Churchman72 said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:14pm | ! Report

        If you want to attract fans with a Japanese or Korean Player then Sydney and Brisbane are good destinations as that’s where the main diaspora from those nations live (Sydney and SEQ). Now Swansea are relegated, they should try and get Ki to Brisbane as he spent his high school years in the city and Brisbane almost signed him as a youth player only for a K League side to swoop in. He has previously indicated that he wants to play for Brisbane at some point and wants to settle there post football. If he came, he would probably stay until he retired and has a solid 5-6 years left.

    • Columnist

      May 15th 2018 @ 9:10am
      Stuart Thomas said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      Just wanted to add that I saw the news of Jakobsens move to Adelaide late last night on my social media feed. Terrific signing for the Reds. I have a feeling he is exactly the type of player Kurz will love. Tough, solid, relentless, hard worker; just what he needs and wants.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 15th 2018 @ 9:16pm
        Stevo said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:16pm | ! Report

        Not terribly happy that he’s leaving City tho’. However, in Wazza we trust (for now).

    • May 15th 2018 @ 10:23am
      Onside said | May 15th 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

      HAL need 10 marquees each paid say $750 K per annum.

      Then HAL need 10 sponsors who each support one player.

      If HAL chip in $3M, the sponsor only has to find $450 K.

      HAL hold a preseason gala night, a televised event when
      each club gets to pick one player (no idea of process)

      I still believe in Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 15th 2018 @ 1:14pm
        Waz said | May 15th 2018 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

        Not sure you’ve captured the commercial realities. Roar had two marquees earning $750k last season … and we don’t pay the most. SFC, City and Wanderers pay seven figures for their marquees.

        • May 15th 2018 @ 2:53pm
          Onside said | May 15th 2018 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

          Thanks Waz. I had no idea. Are marquees earnings capped. How much could Brisbane Roar spend on marquees if they wanted to.

          • Roar Rookie

            May 15th 2018 @ 4:09pm
            Waz said | May 15th 2018 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

            Two marquees are you blue mites on salary and benefits. I’m guessing we’ve experienced a fair bit of wage-inflation over the past few years; $750k used to get you a standout player but not anymore.

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