A-League chief Greg O’Rourke has revealed the race to entice Japanese legend Keisuke Honda to Australia using FFA’s new $3 million marquee fund is still on.
The 31-year-old former AC Milan and CSKA Moscow star, and scorer in two FIFA World Cups, rejected an initial offer to bring his marquee magic to the A-League.
But his manager, brother Hiroyuki, came back with a higher figure which, according to O’Rourke, the FFA are “working through”.
The dynamic and technically adroit Honda, capped 83 times by Japan for 36 goals, is looking “to try new things”, after announcing his departure from Mexican Liga MX club Pachuca, for whom he has scored 10 goals in 29 appearances.
“Honda is the one we really went after and we’re still talking to his management,” said O’Rourke of Honda, who was part of the Japan team that beat the Socceroos to win the Asian Cup in 2011.
“We made a pitch and they came back with a larger number and we’re working through that.
“We won’t give up until he’s actually gone and signed with a team elsewhere.
“He’s been top of the player targets and these things can take time.
“We are looking to bring in marquee players who are not only good for the league but will attract certain demographics in Australia who might not yet be hooked into the A-League.
“Honda is exciting for us because not only is he a great player but he’s also a character.
“And being from south-east Asia he’s also one who would attract a broader Asian interest in the competition both domestically and internationally.”
It’s likely FFA would relax the two marquee limit per club rule to accommodate Honda - or another eye-catching overseas capture.
Several A-League clubs have expressed interest in providing a stage for Honda, with Sydney FC CEO Danny Townsend revealing recently that the Sky Blues would be happy for the $3 million war chest underwritten by Fox Sports be used to bring top talent to a rival club so long as the league as a whole benefited.
O’Rourke said FFA has contacted several other agents about their clients, thought to include representatives of Fernando Torres, strongly pushing the lifestyle advantages offered by Australia.
Meanwhile, O’Rourke is hoping to confirm next week that next season players aged under 23 can be loaned between A-League clubs for no more than one season during existing transfer windows.