Iniesta’s A-League flirtation sparks call to bring back missing marquees

Lou Sticca, the football visionary who brought Dwight Yorke and Alessandro Del Piero to the A-League, believes the competition must rediscover its appetite for genuine marquees, as Barcelona great Andres Iniesta flirts with Australia.

The 33-year-old midfield maestro has, according to reports, been pondering the A-League as a counter-intuitive option as he exits the Nou Camp after 22 years with a suitcase laden with honours.

However hopes of Iniesta bringing his genius Down Under were dampened by the news on Tuesday afternoon that he is in negotiations with Japan’s Vissel Kobe over a deal believed to be worth $39 million annually over three years.

Despite the J1 League link, the idea of Iniesta considering Australia provided Sticca - who brought Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham to Sydney - with the ammunition to call for the return of the missing marquees.

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“I don’t quite see this happening but if Iniesta, for example, did choose Australia he’d be the biggest football name ever to play here,” said the agent turned match promoter.

“He’s won four UEFA Champions Leagues - and that alone sets him apart.



“If he ever came here it wouldn’t be about money, but I’m sure he’s explored the possibility of playing here just as he’s looked at other destinations.

“As a football fan I can only wish and hope he could be lured here. There are other considerations beyond just money and we certainly have the lifestyle to offer.”

Sticca sees 24-carat marquees as circuit beakers for a league crying out for star power and he welcomes the reintroduction of the FFA’s multi-million dollar super marquee fund.

“There’s nothing that beats real football ... real stars. Iniesta is real football. It’s not a gimmick and it’s what the fans want to see,” said Sticca.

“God willing these type of deals are made to happen.

“Every club in Australia is playing in stadiums half full or less - it’s not a matter of who can afford players like Iniesta, it’s more a question of who can afford not to have him? Everybody should have a crack.



“When Del Piero signed up for Sydney the league was in the doldrums and his factor alone put it on an upward curve, then Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey also came along.

“Having somebody of Iniesta’s stature would do untold good things for the A-League.

“It would create fan excitement, give TV a shot in the arm, draw eyeballs from across the country and globally and give sponsors huge exposure.

“Whatever way you turn it, it’s a positive. For every metric you use, this, in one fell swoop, would be a huge coup.”

Iniesta’s name was linked to the A-League after Chinese Super League side Chongqing Lifan, previous favourites to snare the FIFA World Cup-winning legend, denied his arrival was signed and sealed.

In the vacuum created, Australia and the USA came into focus for the eight-time La Liga winner prior to Kobe’s apparently swoop.

The J1 League club is home to ex-Arsenal and Bayern Munich forward Lukas Podolski and talks are being conducted by Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Barcelona's jersey sponsor Rakuten, the company which is Vissel’s main backer.

Sticca is a vocal advocate of expansion, with two new teams due in the competition in 2019-2020.

“The A-League needs to grow and take the game to more people in the country.

"New colours, new teams, new coaches ... it creates a bigger industry,” he added.


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3 min read
Published 8 May 2018 at 5:16pm
By Dave Lewis