The Cahill Factor

Why weren’t more A-League clubs as receptive to the idea of adding Tim Cahill to their playing roster as Football Federation Australia would have liked?

Tim Cahill

Source: AAP

Philosophically, the governing body and some of their constituents come from different directions on the issue and struggle to find a crossroad.

None of that will matter if Melbourne City take the baton and run with Cahill, but as often happens with the star Australia international there are varying reports emerging almost daily regarding his possible future.

On the one hand there is the suggestion he will either extend his current deal with Chinese Super League club Hangzhou Greentown until the end of the season or sign with a rival club there for the same period of time.

The CSL doesn’t finish until the first week of November, four weeks after the A-League kicks off. Not an ideal delay to the start of an A-League career for Cahill, if it were to happen, but obviously not prohibitive to the overall aim of the exercise.

Meanwhile, Ray Gatt reported in The Australian newspaper on Friday that, according to his information, City are  “understood to be on the verge of announcing the signing of Tim Cahill”.

FFA see Cahill, the three-time World Cup finals player and the last big star still active from the so-called 'Golden Generation' of Socceroos, increasing the overall appeal of the competition, particularly at a time when negotiations on a new television deal are upcoming.

Some clubs see the difficulty related to what one official described to The World Game as the “circus”. They compare the worth of having Cahill on their books to the distractions that come with his being heavily involved in promoting the game.

Cahill would, of course, be promoting his club as well, but then the equation for the club comes down to whether he can do well enough on the field, over an ideal period of two seasons, to make the distractions worthwhile.

Perth Glory are understood to have entered into discussions with Cahill several months back before those talks faded.

It is obviously not surprising that Melbourne City are the club that have shown serious interest in Cahill.

City are locked in a battle with Melbourne Victory for the hearts and minds of football fans in the Victorian capital and surrounds and so far they have not even remotely looked like winning it.

They were at a severe disadvantage from the start, having entered the competition after Victory had well established themselves, but the advantage they do have is the backing of the City Football Group and their huge financial and management resources.

Obviously, City can afford Cahill, but they still have to be sure that signing him would be value for money.

Cahill could be a valuable magnet to young fans for a club that effectively needs to establish support upwards from there. He is still the undeniable king of the kids. But how would City use him on the field?

City coach John van’t Schip has been flexible with formations, but up front he tends to favour playing one striker and two wingers. If striker Bruno Fornaroli is still at the club next season, as City would obviously like, where would Cahill fit in?

Would van’t Schip change things up a bit and play Cahill just behind Fornaroli? Would Cahill come off the bench? The latter option just doesn’t make sense if the main idea is to attract people to games.

If Cahill were still at his peak, then the attitude of some A-League clubs would be different, but he’s not. If he were, he would still be playing somewhere other than China. It’s the big money that attracts players there.

Cahill is 36, turning 37 in December. When it comes to decisions like these, clubs have to try to make a guess at how long Cahill can remain a competitive force and also decide whether they are prepared to take the risk of injury becoming an issue, as it often does with aging players.

He doesn’t have to be an absolute superstar on the field to fit FFA’s needs, although that would be a great bonus. He just has to play well enough on a consistent basis and score some of those trademark goals of his.

Most importantly, Cahill would need to agree to promote the hell out of the game off the field as part of his contract, which would be subsidised by FFA’s marquee player fund. Be Tim Cahill, basically.

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5 min read
Published 17 June 2016 at 12:59pm
By Greg Prichard