After months of deliberation, Melbourne City is believed to have finally struck an agreement to sign Socceroos star Tim Cahill as their marquee guest player for next season.
The World Game has been informed that an announcement is “imminent” after the key terms on Cahill’s contract were finally agreed upon this week. There now remains only a minor few terms to finalise and barring any last-minute hitches, he could be unveiled during the next week.
It’s understood that City and Cahill’s management team had consolidated the framework of a deal weeks ago but have been waiting for Football Federation Australia to underwrite a significant portion of the deal.
The governing body was reluctant to meet the initial requirements but have gradually been able to shape a deal they believe they can generate a return on, especially with the next round of TV rights up for negotiation at the end of the coming season.
The deal will make the former Everton star by far the highest-paid player in the A-League in 2016-17, with FFA chief executive David Gallop pushing hardest to get the deal over the line.
At the behest of City, Gallop was also instrumental in implementing the “Cahill Rule”, allowing the little-used guest player spot to be extended to a whole season.
It has been previously speculated about that Cahill could earn up to $4 million from the deal - although that may be dependant on a variety of factors, potentially including crowds, merchandise, exhibition matches and sponsorship.
The FFA will also likely get to use Cahill, by far Australian football’s most recognisable figure, across multiple marketing campaigns as he seeks to play in a fourth World Cup in Russia in 2018.
While clubs such as Perth Glory and Sydney FC were in the race for Cahill at various points in the past year, all suitors ended up shying away from making a concrete offer, preferring to concentrate on different marquee targets.
Instead, with City desperate to make further inroads into the Melbourne market and their owners, City Football Group, the A-League’s richest, it quickly became apparent that it was the most viable match.
The 36-year old is about to officially fall out of contract at his club, Hangzhou Greentown, where he has spent the past six months. At the half-way point of the Chinese Super League season, Hangzhou are two places - or five points - clear of the relegation zone, with Cahill having racked up four goals in 17 games.
It hasn’t been quite as prolific as his spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2015, where a slow start gave way to a fantastic finish, ending the season with 11 goals in 28 games.
While Cahill hinted that he could stay in China for another year, just before the Socceroos' matches against Greece last month, the Socceroos' all-time leading scorer publicly challenged Gallop to get involved in a deal to bring him home.
"I've never closed the door on the A-League. The good thing is I knew I was going to be free going into the (transfer) window in July," he said. "A lot of things are up in the air but I've just got to keep playing - that's the main thing for me.
"I'll look to see what happens for me, whether I stay in China or go somewhere else in the world.
"But overall, I think it's going to be left down to the big boss man of the league to decide what he wants to do."