Socceroos star Tim Cahill has proclaimed Sydney FC’s recruitment of Brett Emerton as ‘the biggest catch in the history of Australian football’, snubbing Harry Kewell’s recent signing with the Melbourne Victory.
After Kewell ended weeks of speculation by committing to former A-League champions Victory on the 20th of January, 32-year-old Brett Emerton followed suit five days later, becoming the second prolific Socceroo to agree to a return, inking a three-year deal with the Sky Blues.
Emerton, who will play his 88th international in Australia’s Word Cup Asian Qualifier against Thailand at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, joins Kewell in an elite bracket of prolific A-League’s signings, which also includes respected internationals Robbie Fowler and Dwight Yorke.
As A-League stake-holders continue to bleed money in their attempts to gain a foothold in the Australian market, the return of “golden generation” Socceroos Kewell and Emerton come as a major coup.
Emerton, involved Australia’s last two successful campaigns, is a familiar face to the sporting community, but has failed to generate the mainstream recognition and marketability that Kewell has.
Yet Cahill, who has in the past been forced to deny allegations of a rift with Kewell, pointedly singled out Emerton’s return to Australia as the most significant signing by an Australian football outfit.
“For me, Brett Emerton is the heart and soul of the Australian team,” said Cahill.
“He’s a player that goes about his business very quietly and to find out about him signing for Sydney FC, it has to be the biggest catch in the history of Australian football.
“He’s a machine and he’s probably the best pro I’ve ever trained and worked with.
“I just think Sydney FC are very clever and it’s good for the youngsters, good for the game, but mainly the players that he plays with, (because) he gives everything.”
Kewell was without a team and out of selection contention at the time coach Holger Osieck chose his 23-man squad for Australia’s opening two qualifying matches, but while Cahill admitted the side would miss his experience, he said the focus should be on those who were in a position to contribute.
“Of course you’re going to miss experience, but if you’re here you’re here and if you’re not you’re not,” said Cahill.
“What we’ve had in the last couple of games, you see the players that have come in… the depth’s fantastic.
“For me, I focus on what we have here and the players that bring so much to the team.”
Brisbane Roar’s 2010-11 A-League Championship winning captain Matt McKay is heading in the opposite direction to his homecoming Socceroos teammates, playing in a Suncorp Stadium farewell before joining with Scottish powerhouse Rangers.
A left-side specialist benefitting from extra opportunities in Kewell’s absence, McKay insisted that the Australians would miss Kewell’s attacking class before lauding the veteran’s return to the A-League.
“We have got great depth, but you can’t say no to Harry,” said McKay.
“He’s a great player and we want him as part of the squads in the future for sure.”
“I’m very happy to see him back in the A-League and I’m disappointed I’m leaving when he’s coming back, because it would have been great to have a few matches against him.”
“I think he’ll do really well and he’ll be involved in the national team in the future for sure.”