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A-League Pedigree: Where should the talent come from?

People continue to doubt the home-grown talent that is on show in the A-League. Yet the reliance on them is now more considerable than ever, with clubs only allowed 5 players from outside of Australia or New Zealand – in the case of the Wellington Phoenix.

So where exactly do clubs and fans stand in regards to the situation, and what does it mean for the future of Australian football?

The Good – Imports:

Yorke lifting the A-League trophy with Sydney FC in 2006

Yorke lifting the A-League trophy with Sydney FC in 2006

Many imports have proved invaluable for their respective clubs. Take a look at past players Dwight Yorke and Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney FC), Carlos Hernandez (Melbourne Victory, Wellington Phoenix) and Marcos Flores (Adelaide United, Melbourne Victory, Central Coast and Newcastle Jets) and present players Thomas Broich (Brisbane Roar), Sergio Cirio (Adelaide United), Besart Berisha (Brisbane Roar, Melbourne Victory) and Milos Dimitrijevic (Sydney FC) and you will see the experience and quality they add to their sides.

 

The Bad – Imports:

Romario played "like a busted arse" - his manager at Adelaide, John Kosmina

Romario played “like a busted arse” – his manager at Adelaide, John Kosmina

However, they don’t all make the desired impact they are signed to do. Romario (Adelaide United), William Gallas (Perth Glory), Juninho (Sydney FC) and Mario Jardel (Newcastle Jets) were all flops for their clubs, and never stayed more than one season. A case of on-field misfortune, and off-field success. Although not producing the goods on the park, these high profile players (along with others) brought fans to games wherever they went, bringing valuable revenue to the league as well.

Home-grown talent:

The A-League has been a breeding ground for some time now, and will take more time to shake this status and become a major worldwide league. Players such as Matt Ryan (Valencia CF), Mitch Langerak (VfB Stuttgart), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Matthew Leckie (FC Ingolstadt 04) and Robbie Kruse (VfB Stuttgart) all started in the A-League and progressed their way into Europe’s top leagues. Now mainstays in Ange Postecoglou’s national squad, these players will look to improve their personal game by playing regularly at the highest level.

Maty Ryan in goals for Valencia CF against PSV Eindhoven

Maty Ryan in goals for Valencia CF against PSV Eindhoven

Leckie was vital in Ingolstadt securing promotion to the Bundesliga

Leckie was vital in Ingolstadt securing promotion to the Bundesliga

It is clear to see that the A-League, in partnership with the lower leagues, can produce Australia’s next “Golden Generation”. Do we need imports? Yes. The league needs to be exciting and entertaining, the South American flair and the European class adds another aspect to a growing competition.

But if there is one thing that needs to be present, to improve the pedigree of the Australians coming through the ranks, is the system under the old NSL. If A-League clubs have tiers throughout the lower leagues (Youth League, NPL, junior clubs and so on) then they can easily monitor players coming through from a young age and nurture them to become the next Viduka, Kewell or Cahill.

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