Opinion

The A-League has never had a marquee like Zlatan

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Zlatan. So good they named him once or perhaps so good he was allowed to refer to himself in the third person whenever he so decided.

He is one of the few people in sport who does not need a surname to be easily identifiable.

There has never been a player in the A-League like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The fact that his contract with LA Galaxy ends in December has been widely noted in Europe and should be in Australia too for what he can do on and off the pitch.

There is no real need to talk about his football abilities, but they are always worth mentioning even at the age of 38.

This season in the MLS, the Swede has scored an amazing 30 goals in 29 games and there is debate as to whether he is the best ‘Designated Player’ ever.

There will be no shortage of suitors in the top European leagues and elsewhere.

It goes without saying that he would tear it up in Australia. He guarantees goals and spectacular ones too but there are other reasons why he would be a perfect marquee.

He makes headlines just as easily as he makes the impossible look easy. 

His talent for self-promotion is just as impressive and just as useful for a league such as Australia’s.

This does not help in some places. China is one possible destination, a league that has big ambitions, big pockets and already plenty of big stars. 

Yet the outspoken nature of the former Inter, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United star makes Chinese clubs wary.

He does not hold back on his opinions and it would be a brave team in the Middle Kingdom that would import a foreign player whose every word is reported by the world’s media and loves that it is.

Chinese football is not ready for Zlatan. But Australia is.

Zlatan would be the biggest star to play in the A-League, bigger, by some distance, than Alessandro Del Piero.

The Italian was world-class and did his job and more but Zlatan is a global brand.

When in Los Angeles, he was found on the big talk shows almost as often as he was around opposition penalty boxes.

He may, at times, seem almost a parody of himself but the media laps it up - both football and non-football. He transcends the sport. 

Recently the A-League’s Greg O’Rourke said there was going to be a shift in focus away from big-name marquees and towards youth players.

The two do not have to be mutually exclusive. A team that signs Zlatan would not just be getting a striker who would score lots of goals, they would be getting a Public Relations machine who would be the biggest sporting star in Australia by quite a distance.

It would result in story after story. It would almost be exhausting but it would definitely be unprecedented. If there is a code war in Australian sport, then Zlatan is the nuclear option.

Of course, such things do not come cheap but it would be in everyone’s interest to get the big man down under.

He is obviously open to playing outside Europe and there are rumours that he has expressed interest in Australia before.

At least getting him in for half of the season - and let’s face it, the Aussie summer has to be something of a selling point when put against the alternative of a European winter - would not break the bank.

It is true that not all like the marquee concept. There is an argument that, for the money invested, the effects are short-term and disappear shortly after the player does. 

But then there are marquees and then there are players like Zlatan. The A-League has never had a player remotely like him. If there is no attempt made in the coming weeks, then it probably never will.