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Which new overseas player will make the biggest impact on the 2018-19 A-League?

4530193790_e1a894ba6e_oWith the beginning of the 2018-19 A League season only three months away, the transfer market this off-season has already been very busy.

Whether this is the result of it being a World Cup year, or just a growing determination on the part of club managements to scour the world looking for the right talent, we have begun to see players move into the competition from abroad, as well as being transferred between A-League clubs.

At this stage though it’s proving difficult to become too excited about many of the foreign players who have been signed to A-League clubs for this season. It would seem that as the A-League enters its fourteenth season, club managements are having to work harder than ever to secure the sort of players who have the ability and presence to make a major impact on the league and the final destination of the title, as well as excite the fan-base.

One of the difficulties that the A-League always faces when trying to garner attention and attract top-drawer talent from beyond these shores is that our season coincides with those of the major leagues in the northern hemisphere. Australian clubs can’t match the wages offered abroad, plus some players may feel that a move here is a retrograde step, rather than one that will take their career forward.

This is despite the fact that playing in four successive World Cups (albeit without enormous success) has raised the profile of the A-League and Australian football in general; while the recent success at the top level of players like Mat Ryan should be piquing younger players’ interest in coming to play in Australia as a route to getting to the top level.

Whilst in theory this should lead to greater awareness overseas of the A-League via increased exposure in the press and with fans in general, in reality this process is happening slowly. The A-League obviously doesn’t receive the same coverage as Serie A, the Premier League and La Liga, but as this list of the best UK betting sites shows with their coverage of A-League markets, there is interest in our game beyond Australia.

However, questions remain as to the quality of the imports coming to Australia this season and what impact they are likely to make, both on the competition itself and the perception of it outside of Australia.

For instance, Brisbane Roar have brought in Tobias Mikkelsen, a 31-year-old Danish international who has made eight appearances for his country. He had a brief spell with German side SpVgg Greuther Fürth during their one and only season in the top flight of the Bundesliga, when he made 6 appearances, and three seasons with Rosenborg BK in Norway, including their title-winning year in 2015. A solid professional with considerable experience, it is nevertheless unlikely that the winger will set the country on fire or be the dominant factor that takes the Roar to a fourth A-League title.

Of a similar ilk is Steven Taylor, signed by Wellington Phoenix from Peterborough United in League One in England. Now aged 32, in his earlier years Taylor was a quality performer and a regular in the first team at Newcastle United (where he became infamous in 2007 for a deliberate handball on the goal line), but the defender’s best days are behind him, having had loan spells in MLS and playing in the English lower leagues for the past three seasons.

Wellington has also signed Filip Kurto, a 27-year-old Polish goalkeeper who has turned out for a number of Dutch clubs, most recently Roda JC Kerkrade who were relegated this season from the Eredivisie. Kurto has tended to bounce around, not spending more than a couple of years with one side, and this would suggest that he is not necessarily going to be able to provide a solid platform at the back from which Wellington can build.

victoryfansMelbourne Victory have brought in veteran German defender Georg Niedermeier, who started his career at Bayern Munich but then spent seven seasons at VfB Stuttgart, at the end of which time they were related to Bundesliga 2. He then moved to Freiburg, where he has managed just six first team appearances in two seasons.

The most recent overseas player who has been brought in is Spanish midfielder Juande, who has joined Perth Glory. After a brief spell in La Liga with Betis, the 31-year-old’s career has largely been spent in European lower leagues.

Overall, therefore, it is hard to see any of these new imports setting the A-League alight. There is no doubt that all are experienced professionals who will bring wider footballing knowledge to their clubs, but none are likely to prove to be their respective teams’ key players.

It can of course be argued that this is a good thing, and that the Australian game needs to be much more focused on discovering and nurturing local talent. And while this is true, it would nevertheless help to raise the profile of the game here if clubs were able on a more regular basis to bring in young stars on the up, rather than more seasoned players whose best days are perhaps behind them.

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avatarThis post was written by a Staff Writer for Ultimate A-League

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