Today's big topic of conversation, while everyone is seeking distraction ahead of tonight's Socceroos friendly, is whether or not Tim Cahill could, should or would come to the A-League on loan in the summer. Some fairly innocuous quotes from the Red Bull New York attacker after Socceroos training over the weekend in Sydney revealed little but were seized upon by Goal.com as a headlining story. Still, it is a question worth asking and considering from several angles.
Here is what Cahill said when asked whether he would consider a short-term move to the A-League during his Red Bulls offseason and if the league's competition is strong enough to benefit him:
"First of all, the league is more than strong enough. What we have built in the years past is something to be very proud of.
"I think for me personally, playing in the MLS suits me better and the international team better and overall for a loan move, it's one of those decisions that you assess later on.
"I think the four weeks to six weeks that I have off just to do a rehab and reconditioning on all the little injuries and niggles (is what I need)...and it's just a matter of seeing whether I can get my body right to go on loan.
"Something probably won't come up until mid-December and if it does, it all depends if I want to or if it works for my body."
Those words hardly 'Revealed he is considering a short-term loan deal before the next MLS season starts in March,' as Goal asserts. Then again, they do not flatly knock back the concept, which Cahill has done in the past.
So what are the merits of such a move, if all of the variables aligned to make it possible? If a move was set up with, say, Sydney FC in mid-December, Cahill would probably not be available before Christmas. MLS pre-season training usually begins around the third week of January, so Cahill could play three or four games in the A-League between Boxing Day and mid-January. In other words, he would be available for roughly the same number of games as Lucas Neill was last season for the Sky Blues.
Because he will be taking four to six weeks off, presumably Cahill would not be fully match fit and would at the very least would be seven weeks removed from his club season and roughly five from Australia's friendly against Costa Rica on Tuesday. Does that mean he could not contribute to an A-League club's midseason push? Of course not. A player of Cahill stature and ability would be well marketed by the federation and the league and could help most clubs, especially those without a strong system already in place. The problem is that knowing a player will only come in for a month, at most, means messing with whatever is currently working. At a clubs like Brisbane Roar, Central Coast Mariners, Western Sydney Wanderers and even Melbourne Victory, that really makes no sense. Nor would it really add much long-term benefit to Adelaide United, who while still early in their transition to Josep Gombau's system, do not need a player added to the mix just for the sake of it.
So who would stand to benefit? Would the A-League as a competition even gain from a short-term dip into the league by a player as well known as Cahill? Surely they could better market him and take more advantage of his presence if he were to arrive at age 35 and join a club to finish out his career. While Harry Kewell has been a bit of a bust given his injury problems, at the very least his arrival, especially at Melbourne Victory in 2011/12, drove quite a bit of interest toward the A-League. Marketing the league as a place where good players hang out to keep fit for a month does a disservice to the full-time players in the A-League and doesn't even much benefit the player himself.
From Cahill's perspective, such a move probably makes very little sense at this point. As Steve Davis of NBC Sports pointed out earlier today, it isn't like Cahill needs more playing time or interaction with more players. He is a stalwart in the national team and potentially its captain in the World Cup, depending on the whims of Ange Postecoglou. He has just completed an eight-and-a-half month season with New York playing 31 games over three domestic competitions. That does not include trips he has made to join the Socceroos for World Cup qualifying or friendlies, like Tuesday. At this stage of his career arc, a bit more time off would seem to give Cahill the best position to enter 2014 Red Bulls pre-season and the more serious preparations for the trip to Brazil in June than would a few extra games while MLS players and other Socceroos alike rest their weary bodies.
A more permanent move to the A-League could very well be in Cahill's future. But for now, a short-term loan this offseason seems pretty unlikely. What is much more likely is that he is savvy with the Australian media and knows it's smarter to praise the A-League and other domestic soccer efforts while massaging what he actually says to keep from committing to anything before all of the pieces fit together.