The A-League lacks the capacity to showcase the goofy grin and twinkling toes of football royalty Ronaldinho, or any other top ranking marquee either until it receives a cash injection from a new TV deal, according to Perth Glory chief Tony Sage.
With the Brazilian trickster becoming a free agent this week after mutually terminating his contract with Fluminense, fans of Australia’s domestic league have been ruminating over the possibility of the 35 year-old former Barcelona legend joining a competition in desperate need of star power, with the new season just a week away.
The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year’s presence would supercharge interest in the A-League, but Sage insisted that Major League Soccer would likely be his next destination, with Australia unable to compete with its pulling power.
“It would be terrific to have a player of Ronaldinho’s quality in the competition, but I just don’t see that happening,” said Sage, who is no stranger to marquees, having lured Robbie Fowler and William Gallas to the Glory in previous seasons.
“We just can’t compete with what is being paid for players in the US these days. They have a population base of 320 million and a well-financed competition while we have 22 million and until we see the TV rights money hopefully doubled in 2017, I think you won’t see clubs attempting to compete with the MLS.
“They have the dollars and that’s why you are seeing the Steven Gerrads, Frank Lampards and the Kakas there now.
“Barring Sydney FC and Melbourne city, we just don’t have clubs that are willing or able to bring in these types of players and pay their salaries.”
Kaka is the top earner in the MLS with $US7.1 million, while Gerrard rakes in $6.3 million at LA Galaxy and Lampard is on $6 million at New York City, where teammate David Villa – whose loan spell at sister club Melbourne City last season was all too fleeting – commands $5.6 million.
Only City, backed by the billions of Sheikh Mansour and his family, has the capacity to splurge, and possibly Sydney FC.
But in Ronaldinho’s case, their foreign marquee spots are filled and he could only be signed as a guest player for 14 games.
While Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners have marquee spots available, with the Jets under FFA ownership and the Mariners on a bargain basement budget neither is in a position to dig deep to fund stratospheric signings.
Jon-Paul Michail, of FIA Sports Management which was close to doing a deal for Ronaldinho in China four years ago, is equally doubtful that the now clubless legend would consider Australia.
“Of course, it would be great for the league but there are more lucrative markets out there for him to look at and he would only be able to come as guest player realistically, and I just don’t see it happening,” said the Melbourne-based player agent.
“The A-League would benefit from the sort of exposure he would bring and we haven’t seen that wow factor since Alasandro Del Piero at Sydney FC, but certainly in the case of Ronaldinho I don’t see it as a real possibility.”
When asked by Brazilian media this week whether Ronaldinho migh even consider quitting football altogether after his inglorious exit from Fluminense, his brother and agent Roberto Assis replied: “Are you crazy? No chance, you’ll have more surprises yet.”
It seems fair to assume though that the A-League will not be one of them.
© The Age | This article was written by David Lewis and first appeared in The World Game on 3 October 2015.