FOOTBALL Federation Australia’s plans to help recruit and finance marquee talent has won backing from the biggest A-League player of all, Alessandro Del Piero.
The legendary Italian forward, lured to Australia by Sydney FC, says spending up big on elite talent is crucial to the growth of the A-League, which has stagnated this season going by crowd figures and armchair audiences.
“As a marquee player, you create a lot of energy,” he said from Los Angeles on Wednesday morning (AEDT).
“Having good marquee players, good players that can bring a lot of experience inside and outside the pitch, they can help the club to grow together and make another level.
“It means a lot from my point of view.”
Del Piero would know.
In two seasons with the Sky Blues from 2012 to 2014, the World Cup winner took Sydney FC to new audiences at home and abroad. He did not bring the club success – they missed the finals in year one and finished fifth in his second campaign – but his 24 goals in 48 appearances delighted fans.
Reflecting on his time in Australia, the 41-year-old engaged in a touch of historical revisionism when considering the flow-on effects of his move down under.
“When I went there the football become very, very popular,” he said.
“The stadiums were sold out most of the time.
“People loved to be involved in football and we changed the philosophy of football in that country.
“After the two years Australia won the Asian Cup and one of the clubs won the Asian Champions League.
“This means a lot. When you make a lot of investment, a result like that is incredible.”
While Wanderers fans will no doubt snicker at the suggestion that Del Piero was partially responsible for their continental success, Del Piero also overstated his impact on Sydney’s crowds. The average attendance at Sky Blues matches jumped by two-thirds to over 18,000 during his time at the club, still well short of Allianz Stadium’s capacity of 45,000.
Del Piero said Melbourne City, known as Heart during his time in Australia, was being rewarded for increasing investment in players.
“Melbourne City change their ownership (and) you see what it means. It puts a new energy,” he said.
“They are great in the league now, better than before.”
© 2016 Fox Sports Australia | This article was written by Ben McKay and first appeared on the 16th March 2016.