Manchester United legend Nani signs with Melbourne Victory in A-League boost

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Cesc Fabregas could join Nani in the A-League Men next season.

Cesc Fabregas could join Nani in the A-League Men next season.Credit:AP

Less than three years ago, A-League club owners were told by Richard Scudamore, who was executive chairman and CEO of the Premier League for two decades and served as a highly-paid advisor during the league’s separation from Football Australia, that they “don’t” t need a whole load of globally recognized superstars” to make the competition a success in Australia’s competitive sporting market, instead urging them to build supporter loyalty by creating homegrown heroes and bleeding youth.

But after several seasons of declining metrics, accelerated by COVID-19, and with the A-League’s pandemic-triggered pivot towards young players failing to cut through with mainstream audiences, club owners are again putting their faith in major signings to help improve crowds, ratings and wider interest levels.

It has worked to varying degrees across the A-League’s 17 seasons – and just like during the competition’s Del Piero-led peak years during the early 2010s, when the Italian legend was joined by Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono, Nani may not be the only big name coming to Australia for the new campaign.

His former Premier League foe Cesc Fabregas is locked in ongoing negotiations with Dwight Yorke’s Macarthur FC, with the veteran Spaniard tempted by a move to the A-League’s newest club.

Any contract for Fabregas, 35, would need to be supplemented by additional funding from the Australian Premier Leagues, just las Nani’s arrangement with Victory is understood to have been included.

Fabregas, a 2010 World Cup winner with Spain who played for Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea, might be the more renowned player, but Nani looks the safer bet in a football sense. On paper, Nani is a straight swap for departed Kiwi international winger Marco Rojas, who was released by Victory on Monday to join Chilean club Colo-Colo, and is believed to have impressed coach Tony Popovic during their discussions over the phone.

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He scored 31 goals in 88 games for Orlando City in Major League Soccer between 2019 and 2021, and last season, featured 10 times for relegated Serie A team Venezia. Sources familiar with his output in Italy said while Nani did not play often, he trained regularly, was not inhibited by any major injury concerns, and remains in top physical condition. All up, he has netted 123 goals in 567 top-flight club games.

In contrast, Fabregas played only two games for French Ligue 1 outfit Monaco last season – with his last competitive minutes coming for their B team in April – but has the sort of CV that is rarely if ever seen in Australian soccer, and is said to be motivated by his desire to finish his glittering career on a much brighter note.

If his lack of mobility is appropriately accounted for in Yorke’s Macarthur midfield, and he stays fit, Fabregas also has the potential to dazzle Australian audiences.

Sources close to the talks, which have been spearheaded by Bulls chief executive Sam Krslovic and the APL and have stretched over many weeks, say Fabregas has other offers on the table, and that a final decision will hinge on the length of the deal and if his realistic salary expectations are met. Fabregas is believed to be insisting on a two-year contract to provide certainty to his family to justify a move to Australia, which presents a risk for Macarthur given his age and recent record.

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