With the worst kept secret in Australian sport now well and truly out of the bag, Australian football at an elite level appears to be just months away from being on its knees.
A-League premiers Perth Glory have set the wheels in motion in an attempt to lure Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the club.
The man who brought Alessandro Del Piero to the A-League is at the centre of Perth Glory’s audacious bid to sign iconic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Glory have approached the 38-year-old Swedish superstar’s agent Mino Raiola about a guest player deal, which would see him play up to six games for them after his contract at LA Galaxy expires at the end of the year.
Player agent Lou Sticca, who was instrumental in Sydney FC recruiting Italian superstar Del Piero in 2012, has acted as the intermediary in the initial talks.
Glory officials privately concede the approach is somewhat of a Hail Mary but the involvement of Sticca and Pignata, who was Sydney’s chief executive when the club lured Del Piero, could help their chances of success.
“We just asked the question if he’s interested. That’s it,” Pignata told reporters on Thursday.
“It doesn’t hurt to ask. We know he’s off-contract through LA Galaxy.
“The transfer window doesn’t open in Europe til January so there’s an opportunity for possibly four, five, six games in the A-League.
“I think we’d be out of character not to ask the question.”
Signing Ibrahimovic would constitute one of the biggest marketing coups in A-League history.
Melbourne Victory captain and Ibrahimovic’s former Sweden teammate Ola Toivonen said Glory would need to pay up to land the deal.
“I hope Perth has a big cheque book,” Toivonen said.
Ibrahimovic has scored 30 goals in 29 matches this season for Galaxy, earning a place in the MLS Best XI for 2019.
The Swede has played for some of the world’s biggest clubs during his decorated career including Barcelona, Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester United.
“I suppose the pitch would be that he’s played everywhere in the world – just come over to Perth on the way to Europe and spend six weeks here,” Pignata said.
“There’s no doubt after Del Piero’s stint in the A-League, it’s pretty well-known.
“We’re hopeful we’ll get an audience with them and just sit down and chat.”
Glory coach Tony Popovic said it would be a huge signing for both the club and league.
“He could do wonders here in the A-League for the profile of the game,” Popovic said.
“I don’t think there’s a place in the world at the moment that he couldn’t play short-term, long-term, even at his age. He’s a wonderful player.”
Ibrahimovic posted an Instagram video on Wednesday night hinting at a return to Spain but Spanish media reports suggested it may have been a publicity stunt related to his role as a brand ambassador for a betting firm.
He has also been linked with South American teams Boca Juniors and Flamengo.