Where are they now: The biggest marquee signings in A-League Men history

-

From the moment of its inception in 2005, the A-League Men had a point to prove.

The National Rugby League and Australian Football League had been in operation since the ’90s. Two mobs of fans with enthusiastic and stubborn support for their codes made the ALM the new kid on the block.

What better way to attract spectators and lure in fans than to unveil successful and more importantly, renowned footballers from overseas?

Embed from Getty Images

This practice has somewhat faded in recent years, barring the thus-far very underwhelming signing of Daniel Sturridge by Perth Glory. The days of those once considered European superstars jetting into the sun of Australia to cruise into their retirement have certainly tapered off.

So, who were those footballing giants and where are they now?

Dwight Yorke

Embed from Getty Images

The eventual champions went all in for the ALM’s inaugural season.

Yorke made his move to Sydney FC following his mutual release from Birmingham City, where he had played 16 games and scored just twice.

It would immediately appear to be the right move, when he scored against Melbourne Victory on his debut in Sydney’s first ever ALM match. An angled, diving header of precisely the class envisioned by fresh-faced Sky Blue fans and any football enthusiast with a penchant for sporting nostalgia.

He would go on to score seven goals in their title-winning season and become the poster boy of the ALM before his sudden return to England with Sunderland.

Embed from Getty Images

After retirement, Yorke very publicly announced his desire to manage Aston Villa having attained his Level B coaching badge. The Trinidad and Tobago international commenced his professional career at Villa Park, appearing 233 times and scoring 77 goals in his eight years at the club. He would publicly announce his application for the manager position on three seperate occasions. The most recent case was last year, before Steven Gerrard was appointed without any response being given to Yorke.

Yorke participated in the Manchester United ’99 Legends v FC Bayern Legends friendly at Old Trafford in 2019. He was also at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last week to announce the Red Devils’ tour Down Under later this year.

Robbie Fowler

Embed from Getty Images

Fowler’s time in the A-League Men is a blast from the past for more reasons than one.

Of course his 163 Premier League goals and that flapping, bright-red Liverpool shirt are the most iconic things about the Englishman. Still the white and green of the North Queensland Fury shoots one back to the vintage years of ALM football.

Fowler’s stay in Australia was short but sweet. He was awarded Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year, and the Golden Boot at North Queensland, before claiming another trophy as his club’s top scorer a year later with Perth Glory.

Embed from Getty Images

The England legend made his return to Australia in 2019 to manage Brisbane Roar. After a mass exodus of 14 first-team players, Brisbane would exceed expectations. They took 35 points from 22 games and found themselves in fourth place. Unfortunately, the interruptions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 led to Fowler’s resignation. He stated he was unwilling to be apart from his family and returned to England.

Brisbane would hold onto their league position at the end of the campaign. Their ninth placed finish in the season prior advocating Fowler’s efficacy as head coach.

Fowler has since established himself as a respected pundit, featuring on the official Premier League broadcast. In 2021, he and fellow Liverpool legend, Jamie Carragher, announced the merging of their two football academies. They will take over proceedings at Melwood Park, the training ground abandoned by Liverpool in 2020.

Alessandro Del Piero

Embed from Getty Images

Arguably the greatest and most entertaining marquee signing in ALM history followed in the footsteps of Yorke, and touched down in Sydney at the age of 38. His 513 appearances for Juventus and 91 for the Italian mens team shaped the aura that surrounded him upon his arrival. Orange and blue sweatbands against jet black boots the paraph to his signature he would calligraph onto the pitch with each outing.

He would stay with the Sky Blues for two seasons, scoring 24 goals in 48 games. He was awarded Sydney’s player of the season for 2012/13, missing out on the league’s Golden Boot by three goals.

The Italian retired from football in 2014 after a brief stint in India with Delhi Dynamos.

Since its opening in early 2018, Del Piero has run his own Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. ‘N. 10’, dedicated to the number he wore on his back throughout his career, has been described by food critics as being “among the best in L.A.” He has also been a part of ESPN’s punditry team since 2020.

Emile Heskey

Embed from Getty Images

The English striker joined the ALM as part of a trio of marquee signings prior to the start of the 2012/13 season. He was announced as a Newcastle Jets player next to Del Piero and Shinji Ono, who joined Western Sydney Wanderers.

Heskey joined after his release from Aston Villa, where he played 110 times and scored 10 goals. His first season in Australia was a successful one. He netted nine times and was nominated for the Jets’ Player of the Season award. In his second season he would take his ALM appearance total to 42 before leaving to return to England with Championship side Bolton Wanderers.

Embed from Getty Images

Since retirement, Heskey has acquired his Level Two coaching badge and taken on the role of Head of Women’s Development at his former club Leicester City. He has since been appointed interim manager of the women’s team.

As well as his occasional appearances as a Premier League and Sky Sports pundit, Heskey has teamed up with former Premier League stars including Manchester City’s Michael Johnson and Aston Villa’s Stylian Petrov, to launch Player4Player. An organisation described by themselves on Twitter as, “Former pros sharing wisdom to develop a new generation of independent minded talent”.

Statistics with thanks to Ultimate A-League

Feature Image Credit: Brisbane Roar FC

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

Tom Macrae
Tom Macraehttp://medium.com/@macraetomr23
Communications undergrad at Western Sydney University covering Macarthur FC in the 2021/22 season. Newcastle United. Jack Grealish fangirl.

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required