The recent signings of Marcelo Carrusca, Jeronimo Neumann and Fabio Ferreira have been the catalyst for discussions regarding the quality of the imports Adelaide United have signed over the years.
While it is still too early to judge, the newcomers have shown enough to suggest they possess the quality to have the same sort of impact as some of their predecessors, and there is a very strong case to be made for the Reds having the best track record in the A-League when it comes to filling their visa spots.
To date, my top three imports at Adelaide United since the inception of the A-League would be, in order:
1. Cassio: perhaps not the most technically accomplished import, but certainly the one that has given the most over a prolonged period to the club. Still a threat to opponents with his marauding runs down the left.
2. Shenqing Qu: younger fans may not remember, but Qu was almost unstoppable on his day, and some of the things he did were amazing. He had almost super-human strength, and could score fantastic goals.
3. Marcos Flores: it’s a sign of his quality that he won the Johnny Warren Medal in his first year with the club. His personality won the Hindmarsh faithful over as much as his often outrageous on-field exploits.
Going back to the early days of the league, I was fortunate enough to play next to some high quality imports like Qu and Fernando Rech.
Fernando was a Johnny Warren Medal winner during his time with Brisbane Strikers in the NSL, and he carried this form with him seamlessly into the A-League, not just with his goal-scoring prowess but also his creative ability – he always reminded me of Teddy Sheringham in his style of play.
Qu was pure class. A Chinese international, former top scorer in the Chinese league and voted “Mr. Soccer” in China in 1999, which was their top domestic award. He flew under the radar because of higher profile signings at the time, such as Dwight Yorke, but in his first year, before injury struck, he was fantastic.
Cassio has been a tremendous servant for the Reds. Now with more than 100 appearances and a naturalised Australian, he is the Mr. Consistent of the team and has performed equally well under four different coaches – Vidmar, Stubbins, Coolen and Kosmina. If he had been Australian, he would have definitely been capped for the national team by now – maybe it’s not too late?
Flores was a breath of fresh air not just to Adelaide, but to the competition as a whole. His effervescent, charismatic personality was matched by his sublime on-field performances, which earned him the Johnny Warren Medal for the 2010/11 season.
It’s a shame Adelaide couldn’t find a way to bring him back to Hindmarsh after his Chinese sojourn, but a joy to have him back in the league.
Next on the list would be Alemao and Cristiano. Whilst neither reached the heights of those mentioned above, I would argue that under different circumstances they both could have thrived in the A-League.
Alemao was a very versatile player and looked most at home when he made the right back position his own. Incredibly unlucky to get released, he was probably a victim of managerial and administrative upheaval at the time, as well as the “3+1” rule, which saw him surplus to requirements in the Asian Champions League.
Cristiano was perhaps the most natural goalscorer Adelaide have had in the A-League. A skilled technician with years of experience in the Netherlands, he was originally signed to play alongside and feed off Paul Agostino, but chronic injuries to the marquee man saw Cristiano played in the unaccustomed role of lone striker.
He still managed a return of one goal every three league games in his first season and was the club top scorer in 2008/09 – a shame the Reds didn’t get the most out of him.
Despite his difficulties in recent times, Sergio van Dijk also deserves a very honourable mention for his prolific goal-scoring achievements of almost a goal every two games, and it shows how highly I rate some of the other players that he didn’t quite make it into my top three. Fernando Rech is also unlucky to miss out.
Even the “second-tier” imports who didn’t quite hit the heights of those profiled above have on the whole all been pretty serviceable.
The likes of Diego Walsh, Bobby Petta, Jonas Salley (pre-naturalisation), Joe Keenan and Francisco Usucar all did decent jobs.
Young Korean midfielder Shin In-Seob was also a tidy player who was probably a bit too inexperienced when he came here, and even the much-maligned Lloyd Owusu could’ve done better in a different system if not hampered from day one by swine flu, pneumonia and a niggling knee injury.
Given the number of foreign players coming in and out of the A-League, Adelaide have been extremely consistent with the quality of their overseas signings, and it’s certainly possible that the current crop of Carrusca, Neumann and Ferreira could replace the old guard and give Hindmarsh a new generation of import kings.