The challenges facing the A-League next season have been laid bare by a $20 million exodus of talent – compounded by the prospect of replacing them under a reduced salary cap.

As negotiations drag on between the players association and the A-League clubs over a new collective bargaining agreement that can ensure next season can get underway, teams are dealing with a departure of talent that is expected to worsen in the coming weeks.

Off-season turnover is not a foreign concept in the A-League, a competition where one-year deals are all too common.

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Former Western Sydney Wanderers captain Mitchell Duke departed for Saudi Arabian side Al-Taawoun. Picture: Getty
media_cameraFormer Western Sydney Wanderers captain Mitchell Duke departed for Saudi Arabian side Al-Taawoun. Picture: Getty

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However, there are growing concerns about the league’s ability to replace the recent exodus of talent, while operating under a reduced salary cap that is expected to be slashed from $3.1 to $2.1m.

Negotiations between the players’ union – the PFA – and the clubs are ongoing, with lengthy discussions on Monday failing to bring the parties much closer together.

And while those talks are taking place, teams continue to bid farewell to their players.

Already, close to $20 million worth of talent have left Australian and New Zealand shores since June 1, according to transfer website TransferMarkt – including the likes of Western Sydney Wanderers’ captain Mitchell Duke and Wellington Phoenix starlet Liberato Cacace in the past fortnight.

Liberato Cacace (C) departed to continue his development in Europe. Picture: AAP
media_cameraLiberato Cacace (C) departed to continue his development in Europe. Picture: AAP

There are fears Perth Glory star Diego Castro, who sat out the season resumption to be with his family, will follow after being left frustrated by mooted pay cuts, and Sydney FC striker Adam le Fondre has been strongly linked to a move to the Indian Super League.

Adelaide United player of the season Riley McGree is also on the radar of several European clubs.

A move to Belgian club Sint-Truiden, where he’ll play under former Melbourne Victory captain and manager Kevin Muscat, was an opportunity that couldn’t be ignored by 19-year-old Cacace as he takes the next steps in his international development.

But replacing one of the bright spots of the 2020 season will be a tough ask, as will Duke’s 14 goals for the Wanderers.

Sydney FC captain Alex Wilkinson recognises the need for a strong A-League this season. Picture: Getty
media_cameraSydney FC captain Alex Wilkinson recognises the need for a strong A-League this season. Picture: Getty

Speaking in the wake of Sydney FC’s historic grand final victory last week, Sky Blues skipper Alex Wilkinson said it was important to keep a high standard of play in the upcoming season – though he didn’t begrudge anyone who opted to take their careers overseas.

“That’s not only in a pandemic situation, that’s just in football in general,” Wilkinson told reporters.

“Our careers are short and you’ve got to do everything to maximise your career, and if that means looking at opportunities elsewhere then so be it.”

The importance of selling the game to new broadcasters next season, with the Fox Sports’ deal set to expire in July, is also an important factor in keeping a quality product on the field, according to Wilkinson.

“It’s an interesting one. I think with the Fox deal expiring next year, we want to put on a good product for whoever is going to come in and bid for the new broadcast rights,” he said.

“It’s important that the standard on the pitch is high and we’ve got quality players.

“If the standard on the pitch is high and we’ve got people watching the games, hopefully we get more interest (from) potential broadcasters.”

CONFIRMED OUTGOING TRANSFERS SINCE JUNE 1:

Player Value (€ Euro)*

Liberato Cacace €800,000

Callum McCowatt €350,000

Dimitri Petratos €675,000

Mitch Duke €600,000

Markel Susaeta €3,200,000

Kadoslaw Majewski €350,000

Gregory Wuthrich €800,000

Dean Bouzanis €300,000

Lawrence Thomas €800,000

Wes Hoolahan €300,000

Tim Hooglan €300,000

Panagiotis Kone €800,000

Eun-Seon Kim €325,000

Michael Maria €200,000

Mirko Boland €350,000

Ola Toivonen €1,000,000

Total €11,150,000

Total ($AU) $18,090,000

*Market values sourced from TransferMarkt

STILL TO COME?

Player Value (€ Euro)*

Adam Le Fondre €800,000

Riley McGree €900,000

Diego Castro €400,000

Total €2,100,000

Total ($AU) $3,400,000

Originally published as Player exodus: The A-League’s $20m red flag

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