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Forget Keisuke Honda; I know a guy in LA

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18th December, 2018
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There’s no denying that crowd numbers have been a long-running issue for the FFA and the A-League.

Ah yes, the crowd numbers – even just the words make me shiver. The A-League’s average attendance for this season so far is 11,642, comparing poorly with numbers fo the AFL of an overseas football league.

The FFA has tried promoting better active support, they’ve trying expansion and they’ve even tried music between goal kicks and corners. More recently they’ve tried bringing in a big marquee, which is what I will focus on today.

Japanese superstar Keisuke Honda was signed by the Melbourne Victory for $2.9 million on a one-year contract. The FFA chipped in $1.6 million from their Fox Sports marquee fund, which comprises $3 million, with the Victory paying for the rest. As a comparison, W-League star Sam Kerr was re-signed by the Perth Glory, for which the FFA is believed to have put in around $200,000.

Keisuke Honda has been a great addition for Kevin Muscat and the league, no doubt about it. Equal third in goals, equal first in assists, equal second in chances created, first in crosses and fifth in passes. He has added quality and raised the league to a higher standard – but he hasn’t done what he was set out to do by the FFA, and that is to raise that crowd figure.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s made a minor impact on crowd numbers. The Australian-Japanese community is loving the inclusion of Honda. I’ve seen Japanese flags fly around the stadium and I’ve even heard of people who have flown all the way from Japan to see him. Considering Honda hasn’t made the impact we wanted him to, it begs the question: Is Honda really a marquee player?

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I’m a joint coach for an under-12s team, and if you coach a team, I ask you to try this experiment too. I asked my players if they knew who Keisuke Honda, and only about three or four of them did. Go to a local club’s training on a Wednesday Night and you’ll see a lot of shirts bearing the names of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi shirts and other world-class players – you’d think these players are the only ones who can draw crowds, though attracting stars of such calibre is impossible for the A-League.

The sport has an extra $3 million coming in next year plus possibly $1.2 million rolled over from this season. There is one particular guy playing for LA Galaxy at the moment – his name is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I’m sure you know him.

Ibrahimovic, 37 years old, has won a whopping 32 trophies over his career known for playing with Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United. He joined the MLS franchise earlier this year for $1.5 million a year. Let me just repeat that – $1.5 million a year.

The FFA could possibly offer $2 million and still get someone else like Honda if we wanted to. He’ll be 38 when his contract with the Galaxy runs out, but hopefully he will be willing to play another season or even just six months on an Australian pitch.

I’ve always loved Zlatan Ibrahimovic and I’d pay more to see him play. I own a Manchester United T-shirt with his name on it even though I support Tottenham. I just love the way he came out with that ‘I’m going to be incredible’ attitude, and I watch his bicycle-kick goal against England time and time again.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic Sweden Football Euro 2016

Zlatan is off to Man United. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Going back to that Wednesday night training, I often see a lot of Zlatan shirts, mainly in Manchester United colours. Zlatan in the A-League would raise crowd numbers, and the argument for bringing him over doesn’t need much explanation – he’s a world-renowned star.

He’s been labelled as the second-greatest Swedish athlete behind only tennis great Bjorn Borg. He scored 123 goals in 116 games for PSG and he’s already scored 22 goals in 27 games for LA Galaxy, so imagine what he could do in the A-League. He’s an affordable option for any club, and the richer clubs may not even need the FFA to help out with at least $1.5 million

Ibrahimovic is actually a realistic signing. It’s exciting, right? Why get Honda when you could get the great Zlatan Ibrahimovic? He recently signed a new contract with the Galaxy to the end of the 2019 MLS season, but he might just be the A-League’s man after that.