Del Piero may be leaving Australia soon

IT is almost two years since former Italian World Cup star Alessandro Del Piero arrived on Australian shores to play in the A-League.

While his influence on the game in this country has been profound, reports suggest his time Down Under may soon be over.

The A-League has enjoyed a golden era during the past two years, and a lot of that has to be down to the great Italian's presence in the game, both on and off the field.

Del Piero is arguably the biggest-name player to take part in sport in this country, and there is no question that he has helped raise the profile of football in Australia.

But whether he moves to Thailand, as has been mooted, or gives the game away for good after a series of back and hamstring problems, there will come a time when he will not be around.

Officials at Sydney FC must find someone to fill Del Piero's boots, but it will obviously be a tough task.

It will also be hard for cross-town rivals Western Sydney Wanderers to find a replacement for their marquee star Shinji Ono.

His decision to move back to Japan for family reasons would have been a hard one to take for coach Tony Popovic. In his own way, Ono has been just as important as Del Piero in spreading the word about the A-League.

The Asian football market is a big one to tap into and Ono has done more than most to make the A-League more popular in the land of his birth.

The A-League has been more than fortunate over the past two years that the likes of Del Piero and Ono have graced the competition.

Emile Heskey, William Gallas and Harry Kewell have also helped to raise the profile of the A-League around the football world.

But the question must be asked, just who will be the next generation of marquee players? Superstars such as Del Piero and Ono do not grow on trees and clubs must search hard for the next big name to take the game forward.

The FFA has a key role to play in helping clubs bring in the best players from around the globe.

FFA chief executive David Gallop has done some great things in his short time in charge, but I think now has to be the time to allow clubs to have two marquee players outside of the salary cap.

Besart Berisha's move to Melbourne Victory might be a good one for the player, but the Brisbane Roar has been hit hard because it has had success. It was obviously a tough choice for coach Mike Mulvey as Thomas Broich is the Roar's marquee overseas star and there was no room in the salary cap to keep the Albanian as well.

But why should the Roar lose out? Time is ripe for change if the A-League is continue its rise.

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