The A-League has been rocked by the stunning news that Manchester City have purchased Melbourne Heart. What can we expect to see following the takeover?
There was always a concern that Heart would struggle to be an ongoing concern given the costs of running a football club and the fact that their on-field woes were contributing to a decline in public interest. They fare poorly in comparison to Victory in almost every area on and off the field and had become distinctly 'off-broadway'. While chairman Peter Sidwell had done an excellent job of keeping things afloat, there was always a sense that it wasn't sustainable without additional investment. The City takeover is exactly that, enabling the club to progress from the survival mode it has been in for the past two seasons.
2. The broom will be swept through the club in the off-season
Despite the assurances that the new owners aren't in any hurry to change things around, the current playing list has limited potential for improvement and there are likely to be wholesale changes in personnel. International marquee Michael Mifsud has been a failure and won't stay, while Harry Kewell's future is tied solely to his marketability. Even that might not save him. The future of John van 't Schip is less clear cut. He is a very capable coach, with a good reputation and good connections, who proved in his first stint that he can develop a squad. The new owners would be mindful of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
3. Heart can be a legitimate A-League powerhouse
While success might not arrive overnight, the investment in facilities and development will give Heart the basis to develop into the strongest club in league. If City's commitment to the team lasts longer than three or four years, then you can reasonably foresee Heart consistently being in the top two or three teams, despite the salary cap limiting the likelihood that the new owners can simply spend their way to success as they have in England.
4. Better quality marquees
The history of the A-League tells us that there are three types of international marquee players. The journeyman international who proves a miserable failure (Mifsud. Contreras), the aging superstar who dominates for a season before fading (Del Piero, Heskey) or the obscure but talented international in mid-to-late 20s who bring their best football down under (Broich, Hernandez). You can expect Heart to be pressured to implement the Del Piero strategy, but given the wealth of talent on City's books, they would be better served bringing under-appreciated and underutilised mid--range talent to the A-League to help propel Heart up the table.
5. A change in name
The name Melbourne City FC was apparently trademarked in the past couple of weeks, an indication that the new owners want to extend the branding and strategy they have started in Manchester and New York into the A-League. The name 'Heart' has struggled for relevance, especially considering the club's base deep in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, and a rebranding to 'City' would be throw down the gauntlet to Victory and re-invigorate the competitive tension between the two clubs. There is also a small possibility of a change in colours.
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