Marcos Flores’s move to Melbourne looks to be the biggest signing of the off-season and will re-ignite the rivalry between Victory and Adelaide United.
Flores’s name had been floating around the competition since news of his release from Henan Jianye a fortnight ago, with some presciently suggesting a player of his qualities would be a perfect fit for Victory.
The news of Harry Kewell’s departure left Ange Postecoglou with a massive hole in his new side but the Victory boss wasted no time in finding a more-than-adequate replacement.
To the average sports fan, the name Flores means little compared to Kewell – but what Victory may have lost in publicity, A-League fans understand full well what they’ve gained in football terms.
The Argentinean midfielder almost single-handedly dragged Adelaide into the finals in season 2010/11, with his pace, touch and vision – not to mention his capacity for spectacular goals – lifting a somewhat average side and hiding the cracks in then-Reds boss Rini Coolen’s much-hyped five-year plan.
Postecoglou has been busy rebuilding the malnourished midfield that cost Victory so much last season, with unknowns Mauritian Jonathan Bru and Brazilian Guilherme Finkler also joining the squad.
The former Roar boss proved his talent-spotting signing the likes of Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha for Brisbane, so there will be few doubters that although the names are unfamiliar, both Bru and Finkler have been specifically selected for their abilities to work within Postecoglou’s structure and philosophy.
But in one fell stroke, he has also signed a player who can replace both Kewell and Carlos Hernandez; a player of equally exciting ability that can provide the creative engine for Postecoglou’s new machine, built around him but not reliant on him.
But the cheers coming out of Melbourne are almost being drowned out by the gnashing of teeth in Adelaide.
Despite his troubled departure from the club, Flores remained a firm fan favourite among the Reds faithful. Adelaide has seen some great players but few individuals have had such an impact, and many fans were desperately hoping the Argentinean would return to Hindmarsh Stadium.
When news of the transfer broke on Wednesday, Reds fans weren’t shy in sharing their feelings on social media.
Flores’s agent anticipated the response and had a story lined up in the Adelaide Advertiser saying United’s board let him slip through their fingers when they failed to put in a formal offer to put Flores back in red.
The club responded in a tersely worded and detailed statement, saying that Flores turned down their offer and instead chose to sign for Victory, a club with vastly more means that could meet his financial demands.
The rivalry between Victory and Adelaide had quietened in recent seasons, as both teams struggled to match their previous successes, which saw them constant finals series foes.
But when Flores put pen to paper for Postecoglou, he also scratched away at that scab and created a very open wound ahead of the new season.
Victory fans should be drooling at the prospect of a proven, exceptional talent, still only 26, joining their club. Adelaide fans will be chewing their fists and preparing flags that will show their feelings of hurt and betrayal.
And the rest of the league can just sit back and wait for what should be a fantastically entertaining renewal of hostilities.