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A-League owners must invest to stop player exodus

Cashed-up owners and sponsors of A-League clubs are facing pressure to invest in Australian football to stem the flow of players leaving the competition to play elsewhere.

Several of the competition’s top stars have flown the coop in recent weeks. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Socceroos sensation Daniel Arzani is understood to be the target of several cashed-up clubs in Europe.

Fox Sports and Macquarie Radio football commentator Andy Harper says the A-League clubs should not expect to match offers from Japanese and Chinese teams dollar-for-dollar, but

“We’ve got to be more competitive, and we can’t be more competitive until the way the league is structured encourages greater investment from the club owners and sponsors. Once we start chippping into that, then we can rightly expect to be doing better in these recruitment and retention discussions,” Harper told Macquarie Sports Radio’s Cam Reddin.

“Fans do want to cling onto these players for longer… but it’s not that players leave, it’s what does the league and the club do about the replacement?”

In recent weeks, high-profile players Besart Berisha (Melbourne Victory), Adrian Mierzejewski and Bobô (both Sydney FC) have departed Australia to play in other leagues.

Berisha accepted an offer to play in Japan. Mierzejewski, a Johnny Warren Medalist in his only A-League season, recently debuted for Changchun Yatai in China, while Bobô is off to Turkey.

“It’s the reality of the football business,” Harper said.

“International football is an international labour market. It is a global talent pool. Every club is part of that food chain and every club is a selling club, unless you are at the top of that food chain,” he said.

Earlier, A-League boss Greg O’Rourke told Macquarie Sports Radio he is in favour of a regular turnover of players to freshen up the squads each season.

“One of the things the fans are saying to us is they don’t want to turn up and see the same team trotted out that was trotted out last year. They want to see movement, they want to see change, they want to see improvement,” Mr O’Rourke told Macquarie Sports Radio’s Cam Reddin on Saturday.

“To do that, obviously you have to let some players go,” he said.

Andy Harper agrees that player turnover is necessary, but he warns too much turnover was dangerous.

Listen to the full interview below

Cam Reddin