FORMER Barcelona and Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o is the first name on a short list of potential glamour signings for the A-League as the competition’s new marquee fund is finalised.
The 10 A-League clubs will be formally briefed next week on the criteria for signing stars whose salary could be augmented by Football Federation Australia’s multi-million-dollar fund.
Emboldened by what is effectively a marketing budget designed to add star dust to the competition, A-League bosses hope the clubs will be able to move quickly on a list of names already highlighted as coming off contract and potentially available.
Though Eto’o is under contract at Antalyaspor in Turkey, it’s understood he has appointed an agent to make overtures to A-League clubs, with FFA having indicated his would be a signing it would support financially.
Once European clubs formally release players in coming days, A-League clubs and a number of leading player agents will be encouraged to make contact with those off contract or who it’s believed could secure a release, to test the possibility of them coming to Australia.
Players coming off contract include Fernando Torres at Atletico Madrid, Mikel Arteta at Arsenal and Emmanuel Adebayor at Crystal Palace. Torres has an offer on the table to stay at Atletico but also interest from the MLS and the Chinese Super League, having told Spanish media he wants to decide his future before the Champions League final on May 28.
Though the offer from China will dwarf any other, A-League officials have told clubs they hope that a significant financial offer twinned with a lifestyle pitch is worth making to any player.
Tim Cahill is also likely to be a leading figure in discussions, despite the spat between him and FFA in January over the extent of the latter’s desire to bring him back to the A-League.
Cahill comes off contract next month with Hangzhou Greentown and remains by some way the Socceroo with most box-office appeal.
Seven-figure support could be made available from head office for a candidate who could have a effect similar to Alessandro Del Piero on the A-League, with potential signings clearly needing the potential to add to attendances home and away, as well as drive up TV ratings.
Outgoing A-League boss Damien de Bohun confirmed that clubs were being urged to move quickly.
“The timing is perfect with the end of the European season looming and a number of top-class players coming on to the market,” said de Bohun.
“Now is the time for clubs to explore all options”.
“The key difference with the new marquee fund is that FFA wants to be involved at the start of any discussions, instead of the back-end. Any investment that FFA makes will be based on clear criteria that will see the marquee player impact the entire league, not just one club or one market.
“The clubs will still need to carry the substantial part of the investment, but FFA will build out a package to make the A-League a highly desirable destination.”
© 2016 The Daily Telegraph | This article was written by Tom Smithies which first appeared in The Daily Telegraph on May 12 2016.