Corner flags Australia wide are on notice, arguably Australia’s greatest Socceroo Tim Cahill and his trademark goal celebration are coming to the A-League. Melbourne City officially and gleefully announcing their capture of the 36 year old’s signature last week.
Their cross city rivals Melbourne Victory, with much fanfare, crowed that their signing of Harry Kewell a few years ago was the biggest signing in the history of Australian sport.
This one, announced much more mundanely, may well be more significant.
Australia’s all-time leading scorer and still one of National Team Coach Ange Postecoglou’s first picked, he is just the kind of player the A-League needs. It was a long drawn out affair, even as late as October of last year it appeared very unlikely he would ever grace the league with his presence.
Happily ensconced at Chinese Super League powerhouse Shanghai Shenhua, Cahill went on the record with the reasons it was “highly unlikely” he would play in the A-League. “At the moment the game is in a bit of a rut where it’s caught in a crossroads,” he explained “What do we want to be? Do we want to be the biggest code in Australia and attract the biggest players to Australia? It’s not about me, it’s about where they want to be. It’s about whether the owners and the Federation want to see the bigger picture, or if we’re happy where it is.”
28 games, 11 goals and a rumoured $4million “mutual’ settlement later, and an uncontracted Tim Cahill was again being optimistically linked by the Australian press to a Marquee Player stint in the A-League. What followed next was the most extraordinary interaction between player and competition CEO I can remember.
An ugly back and forth between Cahill and A-League CEO David Gallop began with Cahill intimating that, despite considering a return to Australia, a lack of vision from the league meant it was an impossible destination. Gallop claimed that the player’s management made it clear that the league ‘couldn’t meet his needs’
Gallop’s claims, combined with Cahill’s heated Instagram rebuttals that followed meant it appeared that an A-League move was dead in the water. That is where it stayed until a heartbeat was detected in June.
Following a meeting between the pair, a distinct publicly thaw in relations was noticeable. Gallop announced the obvious. ‘Tim would be a massive addition to the A-League’, but went further stating that the league was ‘ready to explore the opportunity of him playing in the A-League’. For his part, Cahill refused to close the door on the A-League and would no longer speak so negatively of the league.
From here the dominos began to fall. Whispers became a roar when, after knocking back a massive offer from China’s Huanzhou Greentown, Cahill suggested his next move would be a ‘pure family decision.’ His choice of holiday destination to consider his decision was telling, New York, home of Melbourne City’s sister club New York City.
It was on this holiday that his decision, one that had become the worst kept secret in Australian Sport, was unofficially announced. Tweeting a photo of himself with New York City’s Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and David Villa, Cahill was conspicuously wearing a Melbourne City shirt. City had their man.
In one signing Melbourne City had become relevant. A team accustomed to playing in front of an almost empty AAMI Park, now had a draw card that a supporter base and titles could be built upon. In what should also help them in future negotiations, it was the club’s professionalism that was a major reason in getting Cahill across the line. “If I want a real good chance at playing for my country for as long as possible I think this is the most professional setup and something for me that ticks all the boxes to do something in Australian football” he explained. “Also outside of the pitch I can really do the grassroots stuff that I’ve been doing the last four years.”
Obviously the truck load of cash wouldn’t have hurt, some estimates have the deal as high as $7mil over two years as a player with a third as a coach on top.
Although the famous ‘what a waste of money’ will no doubt be sung by opposition fans on his quiet days, it’s hard to mount a case against the move by City.
The best performed and most beloved of our Socceroos, I would suggest only non-Australians or non-soccer fans wouldn’t know who he is. This kind of marketability is one thing, but he is also a deadly finisher and his headers will win a few games for his new club. To remind you of his goal scoring abilities take a look at this gratuitous highlights package of seven of his best here.
For the A-League to be at its strongest we need our Socceroos to come back with a few good years to shine. While at 36, Cahill’s return might be a little later than we’d like, hopefully his softening stance is one mirrored by many more of our stars in the future.