Are these marquees worth the money?

by Ben Somerford on Sep 26, 2012

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When you're paying big bucks, what exactly is marquee material? Alessandro Del Piero, yes. Emile Heskey or Michael Ballack, perhaps depending on the price. Shinji Ono, hmmm, I'm not so sure.

The A-League's recent marquee renaissance has caught a lot of people by surprise.

Del Piero has signed on at Sydney FC for $2 million a year on a two-season deal. He's a humble and charming superstar, who has achieved everything in the game, from World Cups to Scudettos, and someone who has widespread appeal, but do we stop to ponder whether the Sky Blues will get bang for their buck, considering the price they've paid?

Without wanting to come across as negative or appear to take aim at some bold ambition, it is a question which should be asked given the huge pricetag (the biggest contract ever in any Australian football code).

However, it is easy to justify Sydney's remarkable coup, given Del Piero's impact already with hundreds of fans flocking to Sydney International Airport last week for his arrival, along with a reported 2,000 at the club's Fan Day to see him presented with his number 10 shirt. It's obvious he's got appeal which will bring in money from ticket sales to merchandise revenue. The club are doing the right thing trying to cash in by purchasing plenty of Del Piero #10 shirts to sell.

The domestic and worldwide media coverage which ADP's signing has generated is immeasurable too, while the boost his presence has on the game around the A-League as a whole, not only for crowds, should never be taken for granted.

The club has also invested in Del Piero leaving a legacy at the club, the league and the game in Australia.

However arguably the Juventus' star's most visible and immediate impact has been the flurry of big names linked with A-League clubs since, with Heskey joining the Jets soon after, while Ballack and Ono have been linked with Wanderers.

Even Real Madrid's former Ballon d'Or winner Kaka was linked with Central Coast Mariners by ESPN last week. Yes, it was absurd to any Australian football fan, but from abroad, the recent signings have got people talking about the A-League and flaunting it as the new MLS or Chinese Super League.

So it's obvious Del Piero already has done a lot to justify his price tag.

Moving on, though, it's worthwhile analysing Newcastle's move for Heskey, who has signed a one-year deal reportedly worth $1 million.

Heskey, who made 28 Premier League appearances for Aston Villa last season and was part of England's 2010 World Cup squad, should offer quality on the field at A-League level despite his apparent decline in recent years.

The former Liverpool striker may be the butt of many English jokes and Youtube videos, but he's the kind of character who could prove a fan favourite and cult figure in the A-League, as long as his goalscoring gaffes don't occur here.

He is a well known name for both his illustrious English career and his viral fame too. He may not be as charming as ADP, but he's the kind of character who could do good things for the attention-hungry A-League.

One million bucks per season is a fair gamble from Nathan Tinkler, but given it's only a one-year deal, it seems a calculated one.

In this context we must ponder Wanderers' potential moves for ex-Germany international Michael Ballack and former Japan international Shinji Ono.

The former will have a far greater pull in Australia, and he's on another level in terms of quality to Heskey, having played in World Cup and Champions League finals, however is he even the right fit, particularly given his reported wage demands?

The ex-Chelsea and Bayern Munich man has never been a media darling, nor one to generate headlines out of charm or personality, just ask Germany coach Joachim Low who he fell out with towards the end of his national team career.

Ono, on the other hand, is a player with undoubted quality, which I fondly recall from his stint at Feyenoord when they won the 2002 UEFA Cup, however the 2002 and 2006 World Cup squad member's best days are long beyond him.

And despite his popularity in Japan, it's hard to see him being a huge drawcard Down Under. He may still have top quality, but so do players like Thomas Broich, Besart Berisha and Marcos Flores so it's important not to pay over the odds to get him.

Indeed, at the end of the day, for all these glamour signings, we need to ask are clubs getting bang for their buck? Some times it's easy to get swept up in the hype.