Torres and Ibra headline A-League wish list
THE A-League could welcome more rock-star arrivals mid-season with FFA chiefs set to reignite their marquee player pursuits in coming months, as Keisuke Honda headlines the 2018-19 campaign.
Fernando Torres and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are atop the wishlist of A-League chief Greg O'Rourke once they become available.
Former Liverpool star Torres looms as a possible option in January, with O'Rourke admitting they came within a whisker of signing the Spanish ace several months ago.
Japanese megastar Keisuke Honda, one of the biggest signings in A-League history, will debut for Melbourne Victory on Saturday and headlines the best batch of signings since the Alessandro Del Piero era.
Torres opted for Japanese side Segan Tosu, who are locked in a relegation battle - the drop would likely trigger a release clause this December - with Mathieu Flamini (Brisbane), Obafemi Martins and Michael Essien (Wellington Phoenix) among those pursued in recent months.
Ibrahimovic signed a two-year deal for LA Galaxy, but last month hinted that he may leave in 2019.
Around $1 million remains in the A-League/W-League's $3m marquee kitty, with a portion used to secure Sam Kerr's stay at Perth Glory. One A-League club is trying to sign an uncontracted star in coming weeks.
But January looms as the most likely time for the next batch of big-name arrivals.
"We'll be focusing most of our efforts on the January transfer window. That will require us revisiting a few names we've gone after before and were unsuccessful with,'' O'Rourke told the Herald-Sun.
"We were really close to landing Fernando Torres and we will again chase players like him and Zlatan if they become available.
"The marquee fund is set up $3m, we've secured two marquees - Honda and Sam Kerr, so it still leaves a reasonable amount of money, circa $1m for us to continue to look for marquees.
"We're currently still working with one club who may be able to get a marquee now as it is an uncontracted player. It's in very early stages.
"If anyone comes in at the last minute with the right footballing pedigree we would still look at it."
Dutch international Siem de Jong, Sweden World Cup star Ola Toivonen and ex Premier League players Adam Le Fondre and Stephen Taylor are among the high calibre recruits.
Unlike 2016-17, when money was leftover from the $1m fund after it was only used on Tim Cahill, A-League chiefs are hellbent on maxing out the fund with Fox Sports, who effectively fund the marquee fund, also keen to see more stars in the competition.
"The January window or February is an opportunity in the event of injury, where history has shown that a number of clubs unfortunately are looking for injury-replacements. That would open the door for a marquee,'' O'Rourke said.
"There are provisions in the FFA regs for guest players for that January window. They have to satisfy conditions which nearly mirror the marquee criteria."
Potential A-League marquee player targets
Club: Segan Tosu
Contracted 'til: December 2019
Signed an 18-month deal in Japan but with Segan relegation-threatened (second last), he may become available sooner.
Club: LA Galaxy
Contracted til: December 2019
While he signed a two-year deal with LA Galaxy, he only last month hinted that he may leave before the 2019 season.
Contracted til: June 2019
The former Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Holland star is dominating in Qatar and having ventured east, may be a realistic option.
Club: Free agent
Remains available after a stint with Getafe. Brisbane Roar were close to signing to ex Arsenal and AC Milan midfielder, who was in regular contact with fellow Frenchman Eric Bautheac about joining him at Brisbane Roar. Could be revisited in January.
Club: Aston Villa
Contracted til: June 2019
Retired from Socceroos duty but his captaincy heroics, headlined by the qualifying hat-trick and 2018 World Cup feats, make him a marketable asset.
Club: Central Coast (trialling)
Contracted til: Free agent
The Mariners' social media post from Friday has eclipsed 1.5 million. With 750,000 followers himself, there's a strong case for the Mariners to command a chunk of the marquee fund.
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