Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leandro's exit could be felt further afield

A-League.
Adam Griffiths is hardly the biggest name in Australian football.

He wasn't the most high-profile star at his A-League club. He's not even the most recognisable player in his family.

But the twin brother to Joel and older brother of Ryan made headlines this month when he swapped A-League club Gold Coast United for Saudi side Al-Shabab after just one game.

Gold Coast pocketed a cool $A650,000 for the transaction, but the ramifications of the move were perhaps not fully understood in Australia.

Al-Shabab's decision to poach the no-frills defender signalled a willingness for Gulf clubs to look Down Under for their football stars.

Now that Gamba Osaka's star striker Leandro is set to leave Japan in a 1 billion yen move with Qatari side Al-Sadd, it could spell trouble for both J. League clubs and those further afield.

When former Nagoya Grampus striker Davi cashed in his yen for the Gulf just as compatriots Bar
é and Magno Alves had done before him, respected J. League columnist Jeremy Walker wrote, "let them go."

Walker argued that there were plenty more Brazilians to go around the J. League in the future.

But there are only so many Australian-born, locally-produced defenders of the calibre of Adam Griffiths to go around.

As influential Australian writer Jesse Fink has pointed out, an inadvertent effect of the AFC's new "3+1" rule could be the plundering of more frugal leagues by those from the oil-rich Gulf states.

In Emerson, Bar
é and now Leandro, Gulf clubs have demonstrated a fondness for bustling strikers who provide a physical presence in front of goal.

That's precisely the category that current A-League top scorer Shane Smeltz falls under.

Gold Coast United officials may claim that Smeltz is not for sale "at any price," but these are the same officials who found an offer for Adam Griffiths too good to refuse.

Smeltz will lead the line for New Zealand in their upcoming World Cup qualifying playoff against either Saudi Arabia or Bahrain in October.

What price a Smeltz move to the Gulf states on the back of that World Cup showdown?

Back in Osaka, Gamba will downgrade from star striker Leandro to the slightly less exotic Cho Jae-Jin.

A Korean for a Brazilian - it's a common trade in the J. League these days.

And Australian officials may also find that the departure of Adam Griffiths was a mere precursor of things to come, with the first trickle through the floodgates potentially yielding a torrent.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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