An insight into the impact of the A-League’s marquee signings

Ever since the inaugural A-League season, clubs have been consistently on the lookout for marquee players. Players that are no longer in their primes, but are enough of a household name for fans to recognise.

It’s a simple, yet smart method of putting butts in seats and in most cases, genuinely adding to the quality of your side. It also puts the A-League on the map and helps to generate worldwide interest.

In the midst of rumours that Liverpool striker and Premier League star Daniel Sturridge could make a move Down Under this offseason, now’s as good a time as any have a look at the impact marquee players have made in the past.

It’s also a good opportunity to analyse whether the consistent use of such players has impacted on Australian football in a positive or negative manner.

We don’t need to look too far back to see who some of the biggest marquees were. Alessandro Del Piero, David Villa, Emile Heskey and most recently, Keisuke Honda.

These players amongst more are some of the best footballers their countries have produced, making their names in the biggest leagues in Europe. It’s no surprise that at least financially, they were a success in the A-League.

Del Piero, a World Cup winner and genuine legend of the game signed for Sydney in 2012. After over 500 appearances for the Bianconeri, he made the move to the Harbour City. Bear in mind that at the time, he turned down a move to Liverpool, one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

So it wasn’t as if his absolute best was behind him. He still had a lot to give.

He subsequent 24 goals from 48 games in the A-League goes a long way to proving that. He was still a star.

Emile Heskey joined the Newcastle Jets that same season and his impact, safe to say, left a little to be desired.

A solid first season was followed by a dismal second season, which saw him depart the club with a goal to game ratio twice that of Del Piero’s.

David Villa had the shortest stay of the four, managing four games at Melbourne City whilst out on loan from MLS club, New York City FC.

Despite his brief run, Villa garnered a following from all fans of Australian soccer, simply because he was still seen as a player in his prime. It was a real shame to have him leave so soon, but it will have done no harm to anyone or anything.

Finally, Keisuke Honda played at the Melbourne Victory this season and in short, he made a massive impact. One of Japan’s greatest ever, someone’s who’s travelled the world and been good wherever he’s been. Victory were lucky to have him.

But one has to think that with all these successful marquees, what’s the flip side of the coin?

Massimo Maccarone wasn’t the worst marquee in A-League history, but he was far from the best. He had been a modest striker at clubs like Empoli, Siena and Middlesborough.

However, as someone most fans won’t know, someone who was 37 when he arrived at the Brisbane Roar, some if not most may think that he, along with other marquees who had limited impacts, take away opportunities for youngsters.

In the past, we have seen numerous players who have been on A-League rosters move to NPL clubs across Australia, due to lack of opportunity.

One player we can pinpoint is current Avondale FC player Joey Katebian.

At just 23 years old, Katebian still has his best years ahead and for any A-League club, his ability and his age would present a great asset. But that’s not how the Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar saw it.

Katebian was forced to reevaluate after limited opportunities at the A-League clubs, with a mere five appearances combined from 2015-2017. He made the move to the NPL before the start of the 2018 season.

In 2015/2016, during his time at the Victory, Katebian was forced to compete with marquee players Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Gui Finkler. Whilst those two helped the Victory achieve good results in the league and abroad, Katebian didn’t seem to be in future plans for Kevin Muscat’s side.

It was much the same at the Roar. Katebian joined prior to the 16-17 season and was made to compete with seasoned attacker, Spaniard Manuel Arana.

Arana managed 18 games with no goals to his name, whilst Katebian was barely sighted.

Now we don’t know the full story behind why Joey wasn’t played too often by his A-League clubs, but it is fair to assume that the marquees were considered before him at just about every opportunity.

Now averaging a goal every two games and a proven talent at the level, A-League clubs should be looking at Katebian.

And he isn’t the only one who has been overlooked by A-League clubs in favour of marquees, despite their potential.

Jake Brimmer of Perth Glory is a great example of when prolonged gametime helps develop a young player into a pivotal member of a footballing side. In the case of Perth, he helped them make a Grand Final this season.

When done right, signing marquee players can do wonders for an organisation. But when done wrong, it can set the future of the club back several years.

Soccer is the most popular sport amongst youths in Australia. We should be giving them the most opportunities.

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Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

UEFA and FIFPRO Europe pledge to strengthen their collaboration

In Stuttgart, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin met with David Terrier, President of FIFPRO Europe, and members of the FIFPRO Europe board in an attempt to improve the working relationship between the two parties and professional footballers in Europe.

Key topics covered included football governance, player workload trends, and the growth of women’s football.

The two organisations had plans previously to mend the relationship and focus solely on employment matters affecting male and female players within the European football pyramid.

The meeting not only emphasised the growing relationship between UEFA and FIFPRO Europe, but it also highlighted greater player inclusion in decision-making processes, giving them more agency around matters that affect them.

This will be touched on by creating a new player-specific forum for important discussions with UEFA, complimenting the annual UEFA Convention on European football’s future.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin spoke on the meeting and the progress it will make on the sustainability of football in Europe.

“Since David Terrier’s election as President of FIFPRO Europe, we have covered significant ground in our collaborative efforts. We may not agree on every issue and work remains to be done, but our progress across a wide range of areas is evident,” he said in a statement.

“In recent months, we have successfully implemented measures to tackle issues affecting players in both men’s and women’s football while also improving governance structures. This ongoing dialogue is essential as we strive to address the evolving challenges in football.”

David Terrier, President of FIFPRO Europe expressed a similar sentiment about the importance of these healthy discussions with UEFA.

“Our collaboration with UEFA is going from strength to strength and I would like to thank Aleksander Čeferin in understanding the key issues facing players today,” Terrier explained in a statement.

“Our primary objective is to create a healthy and sustainable environment for all players in Europe, and we very much see UEFA as a key partner to build long-lasting solutions.

“We look forward to achieving more, tangible outcomes for the players we represent and, generally, for the betterment of professional football across the continent.”

The solidarity-based football pyramid in Europe also ensures that benefits and resources are distributed across all European leagues, players and clubs so they can properly tackle these issues at all levels.

It is a fantastic step forward in improving the quality of European football by listening to players on what they find most challenging in the professional game, and it will be interesting to see how the player forum affects decisions in the near future.

FIFA aiming to raise funds to grow its streaming service

FIFA is looking to raise up to $2.97 billion AUD in order to expand its streaming service FIFA+ by working with the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS).

According to Bloomberg, Football’s governing body is collaborating with UBS Group AG. A formal fundraising process is expected to commence in July, targeting mostly financial investors from the US and the Middle East.

Despite no comments from UBS and FIFA, deliberations are at an early stage with certain details such as timing and fundraising size could change with tFIFA preparing to offer a minority stake in FIFA+.

Launched in April 2022, FIFA+ is a free, ad-supported streaming service that planned to stream over 40,000 live games a year, with at least a quarter of them coming from women’s matches. The streaming service also provided highlights, archive footage, documentaries, docuseries, talk shows and shorts.

Currently, FIFA+ has offered live streaming in smaller broadcasting markets where it was offered for free in countries where it didn’t have the TV rights for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) streamed all of its competitions on the platform while also showing live coverage of the FIFA Club World Cup in some territories.

However, FIFA is currently struggling to find a major broadcaster for next year’s FIFA Club World Cup which is set to be held in the U.S.

According to SportsPro Media, Apple reportedly offered FIFA $1.49 AUD for worldwide television rights for the tournament. But, this is much less than FIFA’s intended $5.94 billion AUD.

It is still unclear how FIFA would use these potential funds to improve its current streaming service, but some potential ideas include technological development, marketing and direct rights acquisitions.

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