Kristian Opseth of Adelaide United. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz
Kristian Opseth of Adelaide United. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz

The imports ready to set A-League alight

Welcome to a new season of Australian soccer.

We all know about the changes that have been made after almost three seasons of instability, which have hurt the game's Australian flagship, the A-League.

The evolution is not over yet, because there is still so much to be resolved in regard to how the competition is managed.

The clubs wanted independence from the control of the FFA, and they've got it, to a point.

I hope it doesn't become a case of "be careful what you wish for" but now it's up to them to make it work.

Having said that, I believe there's enough wherewithal and nous within club management to achieve a good outcome for the league.

There has been some debate in recent weeks about the need (or not) to increase the number of visa players.

 

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Bruno Fornaroli. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Bruno Fornaroli. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Diego Castro. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Diego Castro. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Someone from the clubs at one stage called for an increase, saying we need "big-name" marquees, but Paul Lederer, chairman and owner of West Sydney Wanderers and the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association chair, showed common sense. He was cautious about the subject, putting the viability of paying for high-profile players into perspective.

More importantly, he put the onus of responsibility onto the clubs to make this season of transition a success with good management.

I am against increasing the visa quota - in fact I'd support reducing it in favour of developing local talent.

So in that light, here's the six visa players I think can make a big difference to their teams.

I'll start with incumbent champion Sydney FC. First thoughts for many would be perennial genius Milos Ninkovic and, yes, he will have an impact, but for me the big surprise could be Alexander Baumjohann. His previous season at the Wanderers wasn't successful, but I saw enough in him to think Sydney has done a shrewd piece of business by getting him to play in sky blue.

Alexander Baumjohann in action for Sydney. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Alexander Baumjohann in action for Sydney. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

He was never fit last season but when he played, he was a move ahead of his team-mates and the opposition. He has a great first touch, awareness and a wonderful eye for a "killer" pass. Sydney's style and culture will suit him and I expect he will be a great contributor.

Next, I'll cross the continent to the premier, Perth Glory.

Diego Castro, the league's best player for 18/19, will be a huge consideration but my pick is Bruno Fornaroli. I know he had issues at Melbourne City, which saw him sit the year out.

His move to Perth under Tony Popovic tells me, though, that he might have some regrets about what happened and have a point to prove.

There is no doubting his ability. He is an "all-round" striker … holds the ball up, is strong, comfortable in tight, can dribble and is a great finisher. With Castro providing the service and "Popa's" influence, I think Fornaroli will take his game to at least the level he set at City two years ago, if not higher.

Here's where I get into uncharted waters and pick imports without an Australian summer under their belts.

Melbourne Victory has signed Austrian midfielder Jakob Poulsen.

I choose him because of his pedigree - 35 senior games with the Danish national team and youth international representation have me looking forward to watching him play. The Danes are pragmatic footballers with good core skills and an eye for the game.

Back to Sydney and I have to mention Wanderers striker Alexander Meier, top scorer in the Bundesliga five years ago. He's 36 but knows how to score and, if he remains fit, he can have an impact at Wanderland.

Western Sydney Wanderers' new signing Alexander Meier.
Western Sydney Wanderers' new signing Alexander Meier.

Coach Marcus Babbel bemoaned the team's ability to finish last season … well, he's got a finisher now and methinks Meier won't have to do too much defending. His job will be to make the most of penalty box entries.

Another "golden oldie" worth a mention is Western United's Alessandro Diamanti.

Italian footballers are special for me, the older ones in particular, because you know they've learnt their trade well in what was the most tactically difficult competition in the world, Serie A.

Diamanti may have spent two seasons in Serie B but that is a tough competition and you need to be smart to survive. His football nous is going to be vital for the league's newest team if it is to make an impact.

I also will have a quick word about Adelaide's Kristian Opseth.

If the Reds had a consistent No. 9 last season, they would have finished higher. As it was, they almost made the grand final. Opseth's touch for Riley McGree's winner in the FFA Cup against the Mariners last week said he could make that difference. We'll have to wait and see.

Adelaide United signing Kristian Opseth. Picture SARAH REED
Adelaide United signing Kristian Opseth. Picture SARAH REED
News Corp Australia


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