Sell now, save later

Right now, it makes economic sense for clubs to sell their best and brightest but for the future of the league there will come a point where closing the shop trumps the cash register.

When John Aloisi woke up on Sunday morning his heart must have sank when his alarm clock radio sprung to life with the sound of Sonny & Cher-s I Got You Babe.

Just like Bill Murray-s character in thatcomedy classic, Aloisi must have known it was Groundhog Day.

Aloisi-s team are fighting hard to make something of their season. After consecutive wins over Newcastle and Brisbane, the momentum seemed to have returned to their campaign.

But, frustratingly for the men in red-and-white, it seems two steps forward, one step back is a pattern they can-t shake.

Their situation isn-t helped by the fact that the dressing room has become a departure lounge of sorts for the clubs- best and brightest talents as they seek bigger challenges offshore.

The latest to leave is young defender Michael Marrone who has joined the growing number of Australians plying their trade in the Chinese Super League.

Marrone joins Curtis Good (Newcastle United), Brendan Hammill (Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma), and striker Eli Babalj (Red Star Belgrade) in heading for the exit on Yarraside and trying their luck overseas.

Along with Craig Goodwin-s decision to join Newcastle Jets, this portfolio of young prospects represents a bedrock of talent upon which Melbourne Heart fans could have reasonably expected to build something substantial.

The economic reality is that Melbourne Heart operate on a wafer-thin margin and the transfer fees on offer for their best young players offsets the lack of revenue streams elsewhere.

It-s a vicious cycle that leads to a football poverty trap. The talent nurtured by the club-s excellent football culture is sold to save the farm whilst the one thing sure to guarantee longevity - on-field success - is sacrificed for short-term fiscal relief.

As the Central Coast Mariners ( A club with a not to dissimilar economic profile to Melbourne Heart) contemplate the sale of their prized assets Tomas Rogic, Bernie Ibini and Matt Ryan, surely Graham Arnold knows that the grand final triumph that has so far stubbornly eluded them will remain out of reach if they were to leave.

Sadly it seems the biggest trade for both these clubs is survival in exchange for success.

Mike Tuckerman makes the case that this represents a maturation of the A League as it becomes embedded in football-s global marketplace.

If anything, the argument can be made that the overseas interest in young Hyundai A-League stars represents an endorsement of the talent identification and development employed by Australian clubs.

And whilst the competition continues to establish itself (remember, it-s still short of its 10th birthday!) its reputation will be enhanced by the success of its graduates in bigger leagues overseas.

However, it-s not a situation that should be allowed to become the norm. Melbourne Heart veteran Simon Colosimo has had to watch as his young protégés grab their passports and kit bag and head for Tullamarine in recent times.

It-s a path he once took himself. He-s excited for his former teammates, but wary about its implications for the league.

When asked about whether the A-League was capable of competing financially with overseas clubs in retaining its best and brightest he admitted it was tough.

"Now might be a little bit more difficult, but I'm hoping that in 10 years' time the A-League can stop (players making) that financial decision,"

"We believe we have got the structures in place here with our youth team to combat that (losing players overseas)," he said.

"We've got a lot of work to do . . . so that we're in a position where clubs here can compete." Colosimo told News Limited.

So whilst it makes economic sense for clubs to take the money and run right now, for the future of the A-League there will come a point where pulling the blind down on the shop window trumps the ringing of cash registers.

Sadly though, this season it might come too late for John Aloisi and Graham Arnold in their pursuit of the ultimate prize.

That-s the price of doing business in football-s free market.