We would say well done to them, they stuck with it and pursued their target and eventually got him. But we are not too worried. We are in this for the long haul. The circus comes to town and then leaves.
– Scott Munn, Melbourne Heart CEO (August 2011)
When Harry Kewell penned a contract to join Melbourne Victory two years ago it was seen as coup for the Hyundai A-League, a real statement of intent as the one of the most famous Socceroos of all time returned home.
Fast forward to 2013 and Kewell is again coming back to the league, however this time it will be in the red and white of Victory’s cross town rivals Heart.
A one year deal for the former Leeds United, Liverpool and Galatasary man has been negotiated, and Kewell has accepted wages low enough to fit within the club’s salary cap.
Heart CEO Scott Munn has certainly changed his tune since dismissing Kewell’s move to Victory in 2011 (see quote above), and has been quite publicly courting the 34 year old for a number of weeks.
Unsurprisingly, the mainstream Australian media is again fawning over one of its favourite sons and there is a presumption that he will be a quantifiable success at Heart. It isn’t a clear cut as that however, with Kewell having played very little competitive football over the last 12 months or so.
After leaving Victory at the end of the 2011/12 season, it took until April of this year for Kewell to get back on the park as he joined Al-Gharafa in the Qatar Stars League on a short term deal as an injury replacement for fellow Aussie Mark Bresciano.
Kewell recently expressed his disappointment at being overlooked for the latest Socceroos squad after discussions with national team boss Holger Osieck.
“He [Osieck] could have had a look at me first hand for two weeks,” he said.
“If he did that then he could say, okay, Harry, you are not going to be right or, actually, you are going to be right and I have a job for you to do.
“I could still do a job for Australia. The only thing I am missing is some match fitness.”
Of course there is still a long way to go until the start of the new A-League season, four months to be exact, so plenty of time for Kewell to get in shape and Heart coach John Aloisi has no concerns about his fitness.
“I watched Harry’s progress in the Middle East very closely and it’s clear that physically he is in great condition so we are confident that, with a big pre-season, he will be flying by round one,” said Aloisi in a statement.
“It’s impossible to argue against the football quality and international experience that Harry will bring to our team and to the A-League.
“With the right support, there is absolutely no reason why Harry cannot make a substantial contribution toward the team’s success this season.”
So what has changed in two seasons for Heart to do a complete U-turn on Kewell and his “circus”?
With just three A-League campaigns under their belt, Heart are struggling both on and off the park. Their average attendance fell from 9,082 to 8,560 last season as the team finished second from bottom, only avoiding the wooden spoon by goal difference on the last day.
The acquisition of a ‘superstar’ in the Alessandro Del Piero or Emile Heskey mould is too far out of their reach financially, even though there were noises around a move for a certain David Beckham last year.
To put it simply, they needed a marquee name on the cheap and with Kewell reportedly on a salary of less than $50,000 for the year it appears that they have gotten one.
It’s no coincidence that the Kewell signing was announced on the same day that the club’s 2013/14 memberships go on sale, and he should be good for putting a few extra bums on seats in the early rounds at least.
Heart’s first game of Season 9 is a derby against Victory at Etihad Stadium on October 12 and the fixture just got a whole lot spicier with today’s announcement.