Why the A-League should never sign another international marquee player

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They’re often lauded as a fantastic way to promote engagement with the mainstream audience, but these big international signings tend to be more miss than hit.

The clear-cut example so far this season has been English striker Daniel Sturridge. Perth made the biggest splash of the most recent off-season by signing the 32-year-old who is most well-known for his 50 goals scored at Liverpool.

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The results so far? Sturridge has appeared in three of a possible 12 matches for a total of 55 minutes (zero starts) and is yet to record a goal or assist. Hardly the return manager Richard Garcia would’ve been hoping for.

But while Sturridge’s tenure has (until this point) been a disappointment, should we really be all that surprised? The A-League’s 15+ year history is littered with examples of international stars being lured down under by lucrative contracts only to not live up to expectations. Perth has prior experience of this with William Gallas, and who could forget the tragedy that was Keisuke Honda’s time with Melbourne Victory.

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The notion that a club can simply throw money at an aging star of the game and expect results is simply not backed by history, which should be enough to make any club in the competition strongly consider whether to go down that path in the future.

To be sure, there are several examples of international players coming in for one or two seasons and making a significant difference at their new club, but even those examples expose a flaw in the logic behind the marquee player mechanic.

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Let’s say Sturridge ends up being a huge positive for the Glory for the next couple of seasons, what then? The club will certainly benefit from higher attendance numbers and greater media presence while he’s there, but what happens after he departs? The media moves on, and so do the casual fans who were merely there due to the intrigue brought by a big name.

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Will Sturridge’s tenure, even if it ends up being successful, do anything to meaningfully change the status of the A-League either domestically or internationally? I’ve yet to see clear-cut evidence that any of the international marquees we’ve seen over the years have done so.

What the A-League really needs to do is focus on the homegrown talent we have right here in Australia. There are some truly excellent Aussie players across both the men’s and women’s competition who are easily deserving of the kind of promotion that Sturridge is receiving right now.

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This nation’s biggest sports didn’t gain their supporter bases by bringing in ready-made talent and big names from overseas, they got them by ingraining themselves in the community. If the A-League wants to cement itself at a grassroots level as it so often claims, then it needs to do the same.

So, my request to each and every A-League club is to take the money they have stored away for if Lionel Messi or Mohamed Salah were to come knocking and instead invest it in promoting the talent we already have sitting right here at home.

Your fans, and the Australian football community at large, will thank you for it.

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Mitchell Turner
Mitchell Turner
Third Year Undergraduate Arts Student at Monash University (Journalism Major). Generic sports tragic living out my failed dreams of going pro vicariously through other people.

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