A-League finds losing top players is not a negative

Australia's two year-old A-League is developing a reputation as being a showcase of emerging talent for higher paying European clubs. At the end of the inaugural A-League season, young player of the year, Perth Glory midfielder Nick Ward, was recruited by English Championship club Queens Park Rangers. At the end of the second season, Newcastle Jets' Nicky Carle, the Warren Medallist judged to be the player of the year by his peers, was recruited by Turkish team Genclerbirligi. Immediately after the Socceroos' Asian Cup quarter-final loss to Japan, Sydney FC duo David Carney and Mark Milligan were Europe-bound; Milligan to France for trials with top division club Metz and Carney to sign with English Championship club Sheffield United. Now Melbourne Victory's defender Adrian Leijer, 21, looks set to join English Premier League club Fulham.

According to Michael Lynch in The Age, the fact that several of Australia's best-known players are quitting the competition is not a negative. "Young, talented and ambitious players have always left this country — most of the Socceroos squad who played in the World Cup started out in the NSL and went to Europe at a youthful age — but they have regularly been balanced out by senior players returning at the back end of their careers. This season is no different, with former Socceroos Tony Popovic, Craig Moore, Danny Tiatto and Hayden Foxe signing A-League contracts with Sydney, Queensland (Moore and Tiatto) and Perth respectively, while 26-year-old Ljubo Milicevic, who has ambitions to reclaim a national team place, has joined Victory after several years in Europe," he commented.

"Australians gaining contracts in major European leagues boost the status of the A-League, thus helping to persuade talented South Americans and European-based players to come here to relaunch their careers in the knowledge that they can seal moves back to bigger clubs if they do well here. The trend also generates much-needed income for A-League teams. Transfers, more than anything, reflect the reality that in two short seasons the A-League has built on the framework established by the NSL and plugged itself into the global soccer network."