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Inside FutbolInside Futbol


A-League Battle for Australian Legend Harry Kewell

There has never been an individual in Australian football more lauded than winger-cum-forward Harry Kewell. Other Socceroos’ stars, the likes of midfielder Tim Cahill, striker Mark Viduka and goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, ring bells amongst Australia’s uninitiated, but the mere mention of Kewell instantly pricks ears within the antipodes.

A scorer of many an important goal and very much a big game player for his country, Kewell’s European adventure is winding down and the 32-year-old is now at an age where it is no longer a pipe dream for Australia’s domestic league – the A-League – to attract and cash in on the former Liverpool wideman.

Even though Kewell’s career has ebbed and flowed due to numerous injuries, there has been no shortage of interest in the schemer released by Turkish giants Galatasaray this summer. The man from Western Sydney knows at least three A-League clubs are on his tail – with Melbourne Victory presently in pole position – and English Premier League new boys Queens Park Rangers are an option too.

Kewell’s agent, Bernie Mandic, has proposed a unique deal for clubs wishing to snare the services of his client, a deal that looks to place the A-League in the box seat. Mandic has outlined an agreement which would base Kewell’s wages on merchandising and attendance figures. Simply put, if sales go up on Kewell’s watch, those profits will go into the winger’s and Mandic’s wallet.

London club QPR are the most prestigious of those sides linked with the former Leeds United trainee and the champions of England’s second tier can provide Kewell with an opportunity to face top notch opposition week in week out – along with a reasonable pay packet. However, Kewell would not necessarily command a first team spot in manager Neil Warnock’s plans, and at 32, the Australian could well wish to wind his career down on the pitch.

Of the A-League clubs tracking Kewell, it is Melbourne Victory who look closest to sealing a deal. The Melbourne-based side are the wealthiest A-League club outside of Gold Coast United and Newcastle Jets – both are owned by mining magnates – and would be an attractive prospect.

And in Melbourne Kewell would be part of a side looking to rebuild following the loss of key players Robbie Kruse and Kevin Muscat. The winger’s star quality would also help bring more fans through the gates, although the potential for growth is somewhat more limited than the Australian’s other options, restricting his possible pay packet too.

The second A-League option for Kewell is Sydney FC, long touted as the flagship club of Australia’s football set-up. The days of Sydney’s “Bling FC” reputation, in situ at the league’s inception, have passed though.

However, sports crowds in Sydney are, at best, fickle, and the lure of seeing Kewell in action would no doubt see more fans in the stands, raising the paltry average attendance of 7,500 last season. Sydney is also Kewell’s home town and the former Marconi trainee could revel in some familiar sights and sounds. The allure of revitalising a dilapidated Sydney team and boosting attendances makes Vitezslav Lavicka’s team a serious option.

Brisbane Roar also saw their name thrown into the ring for Kewell’s services by none other than Mandic himself. And Roar chief executive Eugenie Buckley approached the winger’s management to open negotiations over a switch.

Traditionally more of a rugby city, Kewell’s presence in Brisbane would cause casual observers, who have heard much about the game but seen little, to put in an appearance.

With crowd figures expected to be up after a successful season which saw the Brisbane outfit play some of the best football ever witnessed in A-League history, a move to Buckley’s club would, from an economic viewpoint at least, make perfect sense. And for Kewell, spreading the gospel of football to rugby heathens might be too good an opportunity to pass up.

With so much speculation around the former Galatasaray player, it still remains difficult to predict where Kewell will ply his trade in the 2011/12 campaign.

Kewell’s agent Mandic is well known for encouraging competition for his client and, although discussions over a move to the A-League are ongoing, there are those Australian football fans who will not believe the legendary figure will grace the country’s domestic competition until they see it with their own eyes.

Published: Saturday, 2nd Jul 2011