With eight rounds left plus finals, Goal Australia examines the contribution of the 2013-14 season's overseas marquees and offers a verdict on their success or failure
By Iain Strachan
Pablo Contreras - Melbourne Victory
Games (starts): 14 (14)
Tackles won: 74.3 percent
Penalties conceded: 2
Fouls conceded: 21
Yellow cards: 7
Red cards: 0 (banned for two games after MRP review)
William Gallas - Perth Glory
Games (starts): 7 (6)
Tackles won: 50 percent
Penalties conceded: 0
Fouls conceded: 4
Yellow cards: 0
Red cards: 0
Ask the majority of Victory supporters and Melbourne-based journalists what they think of Pablo Contreras, and the verdict will not be kind to the Chilean veteran, who has always been on something of a hiding to nothing since Fabrizio Miccoli and Giorgos Karagounis failed to materialise at AAMI Park.
An international marquee is expected to generate excitement among supporters, boost attendances and make a noticeable contribution on the field.
At 35 years of age and by no means a household name, the centre-back is a low key, laconic figure on the field. Prone to minor brain-fades and guilty of a few rash challenges early in the season, Contreras always seems to be on the verge of doing something foolish, but the incident rate of errors has diminished in recent weeks.
The former Chile international compares favourably to the more renowned William Gallas, who was offered to Victory but ultimately turned up at Perth Glory a few weeks into the season.
Whatever you say about Contreras' ability, the ex-Celta Vigo and PAOK man has been a consistent enough presence, starting 14 of Victory's 19 games, compared to Gallas, who has started just six times for Glory.
Contreras has won 24.3 percent more tackles than his French counterpart and, even taking into consideration the fact he has made twice as many appearances, dominates the interceptions tally by 49 to seven.
Better than you think? | The much-maligned Contreras in training for Victory
Thomas Broich - Brisbane Roar
Games (starts): 19 (19)
Passing accuracy: 80 percent
Chances created: 62
Shinji Ono - Western Sydney Wanderers
Games (starts): 17 (14)
Passing accuracy: 78 percent
Chances created: 37
Orlando Engelaar - Melbourne Heart
Games (starts): 4 (3)
Passing accuracy: 78.7 percent
Chances created: 3
Further forward there is no doubting the value of Thomas Broich and Shinji Ono to Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney respectively. Orlando Engelaar is an unusual case. The Dutchman has missed a large chunk of the season through one serious injury, rather than the niggles which usually befall players of advancing years. Upon his return, the towering midfielder has made it clear exactly what Melbourne Heart were missing out on by scoring once, setting up another and comparing favourably to Broich and Ono in terms of passing accuracy and chances created relative to appearances.
Alessandro Del Piero - Sydney FC
Games (starts): 16 (15)
Minutes per goal: 164.4
Shots on target: 16
Chances created: 26
Emile Heskey - Newcastle Jets
Games (starts): 11 (5)
Minutes per goal: NA
Shots on target: 2
Chances created: 17
Of the two overseas marquee strikers in the A-League, it's not a fair fight, with Alessandro Del Piero, a modern great, going up against Emile Heskey.
The Newcastle Jets' capture of the former England international helped add to the excitement generated by the arrival of Del Piero and Ono ahead of the 2012-13 campaign and he did well enough last season. Few argued when the Jets extended his contract for a further season, but the 36-year-old has flopped spectacularly this term. Injuries have restricted him to just five starts and six substitute appearances, and in that time the former Liverpool, Leicester and Aston Villa man has managed a woeful two shots on target, failing to score or provide an assist for a team-mate.
By comparison, Nathan Burns, who spent the first part of the campaign on loan at Hunter Stadium, scored twice in 12 starts, provided one assist and created 12 chances.
More successful still is Sydney's Ranko Despotovic, who is at the Sky Blues under the salary cap and has notched six goals in 13 games, set up another and created 14 chances. A 31 the Serbian has proven durable and dangerous, and is likely to still have several good seasons in him. With the commercial impact of plodding journeyman Heskey, a figure of fun back home in the UK, surely negligible to the Jets' gate receipts and turnover, they and others like them would be far better scouting a player like Despotovic. His team-mate and countryman Nikola Petkovic would have been a far better recruit in defence for Glory than Gallas.
The most surprising conclusion? Sydney FC got at least two things right this season. How about that?