Marquee names need to perform on and off the pitch

The recent injury to William Gallas has highlighted the tricky business of sourcing and signing marquee players.

The recent injury to William Gallas has highlighted the tricky business of sourcing and signing marquee players.

Over the years, the competition has attracted some very good players, few better than Alessandro Del Piero and Shinji Ono. These A-list stars have become great ambassadors for their clubs and the competition, bringing in crowds initially through their star status, and then with their performances on the pitch.

When Perth Glory signed Gallas (for a reputed $700,000) they seemed to have got themselves a player of similar ilk. As a former English Premier League winner, and World Cup player with France, there is no doubting his quality. And it was good to see a fair amount of hype around the place when word spread that Glory were signing the former Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur defender.

But just as marquee players must be willing to promote and market the game, they must also be top dog on the pitch.

Unfortunately for Glory - and the game in WA - Gallas is yet to get his chance to make a real impact because of a calf injury he picked up just half an hour into his second appearance. By all accounts, it is only a minor problem and Glory fans will get to see the Frenchman back in action very soon.

But it's not hard to imagine how nervous owner Tony Sage must have been when he saw his big-name signing walking off the pitch. The reality is that whatever tests are done on a player before he is signed, it is impossible to know how he will adapt to playing in Australia, with the extreme heat and frequent flights from one side of the country to the other.

In world terms, Gallas would not be considered an expensive signing. But the finances of A-League clubs are tight and the quality of marquee player is dictated by commerce. We don-t have the money that is floating around the game in other parts of the world.

Even on our doorstep, in China, the chequebook has been opened and millions of dollars are being thrown at players to join a second-rate league. For example look no further than Argentina-s Dario Conca, who is believed to be the third highest paid player in the world, behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, after signing for Guangzhou Evergrande. It also took huge sums of money for Shanghai Shenhua to sign Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba.

In the absence of such finances, A-League clubs have to spend wisely to avoid inviting flops to our game. And let-s be honest, we have had a few with Benito Carbone, Mario Jardel and Romario coming in at the wrong end of great careers and falling way short of the mark. The A-League doesn-t need journeymen, looking to top up their superannuation funds. It needs true professionals, who can assist our next generation and show them what it takes to get to the highest level. We want marquee players, not luxury players.

Thankfully, clubs are now getting it right more often - not just with marquee players, but imports generally. The likes of Marcos Flores and Thomas Broich are at the right age to perform on the track day in, day out and they have been immense for the competition.

The marquee story is only partly about imports, and clubs are now also wisely choosing to take advantage of the provision for Australian marquees. The likes of Archie Thompson, Matt McKay and Brett Emerton are very good players, who are also important role models for local youngsters. As much as kids love to see the likes of Del Piero and Ono in action, there is also something special about local heroes, who can make a stronger connection between fans and the club, and provide the spark for young players to follow in their footsteps.

Ultimately, whether the A-League-s star players are imports or homegrown they must be prepared to push for the game off the field and perform on it. Gallas has started one part of that particular bargain, spending more than an hour after his debut signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans. Settling into life on the pitch and performing well for Glory will complete the deal.