Top 5 A-League imports who never achieved marquee status

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There’s no doubting the impact marquee players can have on a club, and on a larger scale the competition as a whole. From crowds, merchandising and advertising, marquee signings add an awful lot to our game.

The A-League has been graced with the quality of international stars Alessandro Del Piero, Dwight Yorke, and this season Keisuke Honda and Ola Toivonen.

But what about the players who arrive without star status, but leave with their names etched in A-League folklore?

Today, we look at the top five non-marquee players who had an incredible impact on their clubs and the league.

Note: Players like Thomas Broich, Besart Berisha and Guilherme Finkler are absent from this list as they eventually went on to achieve marquee status, despite arriving to the A-League as foreign visa players under the salary cap. Australian and New Zealand players are also absent from this list.

  1. Marcos Flores

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The Argentine first graced our shores in 2009, signing on with Adelaide United as part of their 2010 AFC Champions League campaign, before being an injury replacement in 2010 for fellow import Cristiano.

His best season for the Reds came in 2010/11, where he scored four goal of the season contenders and took out the Johnny Warren player of the year award.

Flores also had stints at the Melbourne Victory, Central Coast Mariners and the Newcastle Jets, but failed to have as big of an impact at those clubs of the same level that he did at Adelaide, where he was hugely adored.

The Argentine added his own Flores flavour to the league, where we were treated to some spectacular master-classes in the somewhat early stages of the competition.

Before he left Adelaide for Henan Jiayne in the Chinese Super League, Flores was offered a three-year contract worth over $300,000 a season, which would have made him the highest paid player at the club. As a result, he never received marquee status in the A-League.

 

  1. Carlos Hernandez

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Carlos Hernandez first arrived in the A-League on loan to Melbourne Victory from Costa Rican club Liga Deportiva Alajuelense in 2007. He had a slow start to life in the Australia, but by the end of his two-year loan period, it was announced that Hernandez had signed with the Victory on a permanent thee-year deal.

Although he impressed with his original loan spell, it was his second stint at the Victory where Carlos came alive. By the end, he had amassed 35 goals and 27 assists in 120 games for the Navy Blue, and a Johnny Warren Medal to go along with it, which he won for his 2009/10 season.

After leaving Melbourne Victory in 2012, Hernandez signed for the Wellington Phoenix in 2013, where we bagged 7 goals and 10 assists in 20 games.

Although he might not have been the most physically gifted player, his technical ability would tear defences apart, with his long-range specialties ending up in the back of the net more often than not.

 

  1. Patrick Zwaanswijk

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‘Dutchy’, as he was commonly referred to on the Central Coast due to his difficult-to-spell last name, had a huge impact in Gosford. Arriving with a wealth of experience in Dutch Eredivisie and the J1 League, he formed a solid partnership in defence for the Central Coast Mariners with now-Socceroo, Trent Sainsbury.

Dutchy was instrumental in the development of Sainsbury, and was a key leadership figure within the Mariners dressing room.

Zwaanswijk lifted the A-League Champions trophy alongside Mariners legend and captain John Hutchinson, following the club’s grand final triumph in 2013 over the Western Sydney Wanderers, a game in which he scored the opening goal, making him the oldest player to score for the Mariners at the age of 38. It turned out to be his last game for the club.

Dutchy still resides on the Central Coast, helping develop the next Mariner in his role at the International Football and Tennis School, which is where Umina resident and former-Mariners winger Trent Buhagiar graduated.

 

  1. Adrian Mierzejewski

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Apparently to be a brilliant player you need a near-impossible to pronounce surname. Adrian Mierzejewski arrived to Sydney FC in 2017 under the cap and was immediately identified as someone who could set the A-League alight.

In his debut season for the Sky Blues Adrian won the Johnny Warren Medal after scoring 13 goals and creating 3 assists.

He, alongside Milos Ninkovic and Bobo formed a formidable attack for the Sky Blues, which saw them cruise to victory, winning the league 14 points ahead of the Newcastle Jets.

The following season, Adrian was seeking marquee status for Sydney FC, but in a very public disagreement with management, Adrian sadly left the A-League for China.

 

  1. Leroy George

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Similarly to Adrian, Leroy George left the A-League in somewhat controversial fashion. He was asking for money the Melbourne Victory simply couldn’t fit under the cap, and already had James Troisi and Besart Berisha as their marquee players.

George slammed Victory management and the A-League following Melbourne Victory’s grand final win over the Newcastle Jets.

“In the regular season we ended up as number four with more than 20 points less than the number one”, said George.

“You can run a pussy season in Australia and then still celebrate a championship.

“I was greatly appreciated by the players, but unfortunately certain people have not fulfilled their appointments in conversation with my agent Richinel Bryson”, George said.

And he was right – because his ability on the pitch cannot be questioned, and definitely deserved marquee status with the Victory.

Leroy George created a league-high 14 assists, while also bagging himself nine goals in his one season in the A-League. George was also named the 2017/18 Victory Medallist.

The Dutchman may have left the A-League on a slightly sour note, but his class on the pitch will be remembered by Victory fans and neutrals alike.

Who did we forget? I’m sure you’ll let us know…

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Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith
Football writer and radio presenter. Loves everything football (well, except Italian's diving since '06).

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