The A-League's overseas A-listers
Alessandro Del Piero recently left the Old Lady of Calcio to join an eight-year-old club Down Under. The Juventus legend was not the first foreign superstar to make Australia his new home. FIFA.com looks back at his seven most famous predecessors and the varying impacts they had in the A-League.
Dwight Yorke (Trinidad and Tobago)
Sydney FC, 2005-06
‘The Smiling Assassin’ could have remained in the prestigious pastures of the English Premier League, or pocketed mega-bucks in the Middle East, when following his departure from Birmingham City in 2005 he surprisingly joined the Sky Blues. It was a decision that paid rich dividends for the A-League and Sydney FC. The presence of a man who played an instrumental role in Manchester United’s annus mirabilis of 1999 was of considerable commercial benefit to the competition, while his on-field leadership and seldom ability helped the club become the maiden A-League champions. At 33, Yorke had lost a yard of his once-feared pace, prompting coach Pierre Littbarski to revert him from a striker to a central midfielder. It was a position which suited Yorke’s intelligence, dribbling, vision and execution of pass to a tee. The Trinidad and Tobago legend netted a diving header on his A-League debut, scored and starred in Sydney’s 2-1 upset of African colossuses Al Ahly in the match for fifth place at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2005, and played the principal role in thrusting the Sydneysiders into the Grand Final. There, he tormented Central Coast Mariners throughout and cannily set up the only goal for Steve Corica. Yorke’s performance was rewarded with the Joe Marston Medal, awarded to the fixture’s best player. It would prove Yorke’s last official outing for Sydney as, after impressing at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, he returned to the English top flight with Sunderland.
Kazu Miura (Japan)
Sydney FC, 2005
The Japanese spectators screamed hysterically every time one man touched the ball at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2005. Not Amoroso, Steven Gerrard, Rogerio Ceni or Xabi Alonso, but the Sydney No11. ‘King Kazu’, of course, was the Japanese game’s first superstar and the maiden Asian Footballer of the Year, so his signing was a marketing masterstroke by the club. At 38, Miura was well past his peak, but he still had his moments during his six matches for Sydney, including scoring twice in a 3-2 loss at Adelaide United.
Benito Carbone (Italy)
Sydney FC, 2006
Eager to fill Yorke’s sizeable void, the Sky Blues handed another former star of English football a four-match deal with a view to a permanent move. Carbone’s debut suggested they had once again hit the jackpot, with the little attacking midfielder setting up two goals – including one with an exquisite back-heel – and scoring one as Sydney emphatically won 4-1 away to Adelaide United. After netting a free-kick in his third game, however, the former Inter Milan and Sheffield Wednesday man sustained a hamstring tear that ruled him out for two months. Dissuaded by Carbone’s injury problems, Sydney elected against increasing their initial contract offer, which the 35-year-old had rejected.
Adelaide United, 2006-07
Over two decades since he made his professional debut, the 40-year-old Baixinho (Shortie) signed a big-money four-match deal with The Reds. There was a carnival atmosphere, with samba drums beating and Brazilian dancers performing, during his first two outings, but both ended with Romario drawing blanks and Adelaide losing. The marksman who inspired Brazil to USA 1994 glory was then substituted with his side losing at home to rock-bottom New Zealand Knights, with his replacement Travis Dodd helping United earn a point. Finally, in his last appearance, Romario scored and Adelaide won. It was one of the ugliest goals of the Barcelona legend’s career, but they all count – that one helped United edge Newcastle Jets 3-2 and qualify for the play-offs in second place, and himself move onto 987 career goals by his personal count.
Newcastle Jets, 2007-08
The New South Wales side made the former Brazil striker their marquee signing ahead of the A-League’s third season, but he was unrecognisable from the man who scored more goals than he played games over six seasons in Portugal between 1996 and 2003. An overweight Jardel was relegated to the bench after just one appearance and, although club owner Con Constantine persistently urged coach Gary van Egmond to give the two-time European Golden Shoe winner a run in the team, the former eventually admitted the latter had been right after the 34-year-old was still goalless following 11 matches for the Jets. Jardel left Hunter Stadium in the January, and six weeks later Newcastle became A-League champions.
Juninho Paulista (Brazil)
Sydney FC, 2007-08
“He’s every striker’s dream,” said Alex Brosque of Sydney team-mate Juninho Paulista. “He creates opportunities for you out of nothing.” And that the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan winner did with monotonous regularity for Brosque and Co when he was on the pitch. The problem with the former Middlesbrough and Atletico Madrid genius was that consistent injuries limited him to just 14 appearances in the 2007/08 A-League, and prompted the club to release him at the end of the season.
Robbie Fowler (England)
North Queensland Fury, 2009-10
Perth Glory, 2010-11
North Queensland Fury made the Liverpool legend their marquee signing for their inaugural A-League campaign, and although the 34-year-old scored a few spectacular goals, his form was inconsistent as the club failed to make the play-offs. Following a contractual dispute, Fowler moved across Australia to Perth Glory. The former England striker scored nine goals in 28 appearances for the Western Australia outfit, who finished a disappointing second-bottom of the 2010/11 A-League’s regular season. Fowler swiftly ended his Australian adventure for “family reasons”.