Why Tim Cahill will be a hit

On the field and off the field, Tim Cahill is what the A-League needs, writes Les Murray.

Tim Cahill

Source: Getty Images

So it now seems London to a brick that Tim Cahill will join the A-League in the new season. This is now most likely, given especially that the FFA has invested heavily in cultivating the anticipation. It is unlikely they will want to lose face by failing this time. 

It would be a good thing and I confess I couldn't give a hoot how much Cahill will enrich himself by coming home. 

It might be a matter of coffee house debate whether or not Cahill is the best footballer this country has ever produced. But there can be little doubt that he's the most popular. This includes the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Mark Schwarzer. 

But it's Kewell whose example we can best use to assess what Cahill will bring, especially in terms of crowds and television ratings. 

Before Kewell joined Melbourne Victory in 2011 the appeal of the A-League was on a slide. Crowds were down as were TV audiences. The recent failures of the North Queensland Fury and Gold Coast United projects, not to mention the spectacular feud between Frank Lowy and Clive Palmer, did a lot of damage. 

But once Kewell arrived things changed. Crowds went up again for the first time since 2007-2008. The season average across the league was up 20 per cent. The increase applied to all teams across the league. In other words Harry made money for everyone. 


That trend, of course, continued after Alessandro Del Piero arrived in 2012. But with the Italian superstar's departure two seasons later, and with no marquee player of substance on show, crowds dipped again, as did TV ratings. 

No wonder the FFA is keen to get Cahill. No wonder the FFA has now set special funds aside to assist clubs to sign big name marquees. 

Of course there are, in a global sense, probably bigger names around than Tim Cahill. But for Australians he has massive box office appeal. He is a pin-up boy and seen as an Australian World Cup hero. 

With the signing of Cahill the Melbourne City (Melbourne Heart) experiment, if that is where he signs, is set to finally come to fruition. And it will be the product of some renewed, brave thinking by a club which traditionally shied away from genuine, big name marquees. The club's CEO, Scott Munn, once famously said that marquee players are not worth the money spent on them. 

All this, one assumes, changed once the club was taken over and morphed from Heart to City. Promptly David Villa arrived, albeit for too short a spell. Longer term he would have been a fabulous marquee addition to the A-League. 

But disappointingly since then, despite City being the most financially secure club in the land, until now it has been reluctant to sign genuine international names. As recently as January this year City was one of the club's which rejected overtures from Ronaldinho. 

I genuinely hope the Cahill project works for Melbourne City. The club has for too long been the poor sister to Melbourne Victory. It is time that changed and the Cahill signing might just be the thing to change it. 

And may it work for the A-League as a whole and teach benign, unadventurous club executives a lesson - a lesson that big name players are not a liability and ultimately pay for themselves. And plus. 

That is, after all, the Real Madrid philosophy. And for them it has always worked.

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4 min read
Published 2 August 2016 at 10:22am
By Les Murray