A-League: Barcelona legend Iniesta in frame as FFA revisit marquees

ON THE MOVE: Barcelona and Spanish midfielder Iniesta is on the look out for a new club. Picture: APFootball Federation is set to make contact with Andres Iniesta’s management to see if the Spanish legend’s interest in an A-League stint is for real.
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It comes after clubs flagged their intention to use a new $3 million war chest announced last week to bring big-name players to the competition next season.

It may be too late to snare Iniesta, with reports out of Japan suggesting the Barcelona great is to sign a three-year deal with J-League club Vissel Kobe worth 25 million euros per season.

Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna is part of a “Marquee player fund strategy” group tasked with devising a plan on how best to use the money, which will be provided by Fox Sports.

The group will hold a telephone hook up on Thursday.

The views of coaches, who have previously been reticent to take on marquee players, will also be taken into account.

However, A-League chief Greg O’Rourke said the view across the game was “overwhelming” that the competition needs to revisit the marquee concept.

“We will determine with (the CEOs) how this is going to work – do we go out and use $3 million to go and hook one big fish, or three small ones?” O’Rourke said.

“There’s some history that would say that (Alessandro) Del Piero, when he was here with (Emile) Heskey and Shinji Ono was actually quite amplifying.”

MARQUEE: Former Liverpool and England striker Emile Heskey (centre) played two seasons with the Newcastle Jets. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Spanish outlet Sport claimed Iniesta, 33, had named has the “preferred destination” to end his glittering career.

O’Rourke confirmed FFA would reach out to the 2010 World Cup winner, but if they miss out as expected, he said approaches have already been made to other potential A-League recruits in recent days.

O’Rourke said a list of targets would be drawn upusing publicly available information, as well as help from their PFA and their networks – including the world players’ union FIFPro – and input from clubs.

The A-League had a centralised ‘guest marquee’ fund in 2016 but it garnered only one player, Tim Cahill, whose stint at Melbourne City did not have the desired impact on crowds and TV ratings.

Western Sydney (Eduardo da Silva) and Melbourne Victory (Alessandro Diamanti) had attempts to sign players under the same rule knocked back because they did not meet strict marketability criteria.

O’Rourke said while similar criteria will apply, FFA’s approach will be more “holistic” this time around.

“I think you’ll see a lot more of a collaborative approach rather than (the clubs) bringing players to us, which was the previous approach,” O’Rourke said.