Straight from the dugout

Australian Four Four Two - - ADS - You can fol­low me or send me a tweet on @Kev­inAirs442 Kevin Airs Ed­i­tor

Cover star Tim Cahill is a gen­uine leg­end in Aus­tralian foot­ball. Our record goal scorer re­mains ever­green de­spite al­most two decades in the game and his ar­rival in the A-League at last will be a huge boost for the sport. But... Sim­i­lar to some of the crit­i­cism of his role in the Soc­ceroos, the in­evitable ques­tion is who else can we turn to when Tim has gone? In Soc­ceroos terms, the is­sue is less con­cern­ing – our record at the Asian Cup showed goalscor­ing depth, even if we did rely on Tim com­ing off the bench to our res­cue again in the re­cent WCQ against UAE. But in A-League terms, the FFA is fac­ing tough times ahead in lur­ing star names to bol­ster the less main­stream-friendly tal­ent – in­spir­ing and ex­cit­ing though it is. They bent the rules specif­i­cally to al­low Cahill to join Mel­bourne City to drive up the cash-rich club’s fan­base, and boost the league as a whole. How­ever, other clubs try­ing to fol­low suit have been thwarted over and over again. Pos­si­ble tar­gets with a sim­i­lar crowd-pulling reach to Cahill are sim­ply out of the A-League’s reach. The Chi­nese Su­per League and MLS have priced us out of the mar­ket – es­pe­cially af­ter tax – even with added funds from the FFA. And in terms of other re­turn­ing Soc­ceroos, we’re years away from the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion hav­ing Cahill’s pro­file (although Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy are a work in progress), with very few of Cahill’s Golden Gen­er­a­tion peers still play­ing. To­wards the back of the mag though, there is a fas­ci­nat­ing fea­ture on how the most im­por­tant player in a side is its weak­est one, not its strong­est. Cahill’s ad­di­tion to Aus­tralian club foot­ball will raise in­ter­est across the media and ri­val codes – but as was shown with Alessan­dro Del Piero at Sydney FC, un­less the rest of the team can keep up, just hav­ing one of the best play­ers in the world won’t win you ti­tles. And even more than big stars, fans love win­ning most of all, es­pe­cially if it’s in style. Given the prob­lems of tempt­ing one Down Un­der now – never mind try­ing to get them to fit ef­fec­tively into a side – per­haps it’s time to move away from big name mar­quees and in­stead spend that money on a vastly in­creased salary cap to raise the over­all stan­dard of each side, from the weak­est link up. Leg­endary Tim Cahill could be the king of mar­quees... and maybe also our last one.

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