Tampines snub Gudjohnsen and Gomes

SINGAPORE - They are names who would have lit up the S-League.

Former Barcelona and Chelsea star Eidur Gudjohnsen and ex-Portugal hitman Nuno Gomes were recently offered to the S-League as marquee players, but sadly, there were no takers.

Martin Prest, the agent of the two players, told The New Paper yesterday that he tried to convince three-time defending champions Tampines Rovers to sign the duo, but the S-League champions were not keen.

"Yes, I offered Gudjohnsen (right, top) and Gomes (right) to Tampines first," said Prest, who took Argentinian superstar Pablo Aimar to Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta'zim.

"I also offered Jorge Lopez, the ex-Valencia, Villarreal and Real Zaragoza attacking midfielder. I don't know what they (Tampines) have in mind, but I accept (their decision)."

Prest said that with the subsidy provided by the S-League (see sidebar), local clubs "can afford" top names like 35-year-old Gudjohnsen and Gomes, 37.

It is understood that Lopez, who was with top-tier Belgian side Gent last season, would have commanded a lower monthly salary than Tampines' marquee flop last season, Argentine midfielder Martin Wagner.

Instead, the Stags have targeted former Anderlecht striker Miljan Mrdakovic as their marquee player for the coming season.

When contacted, club chairman Teo Hock Seng admitted that the 31-year-old Serb was a "high possibility", but bristled slightly when asked why he did not move for a more well-known player.

He said: "You have to understand that sometimes it's not easy to get these players (like Gudjohnsen) here.

"Yes, we want the best. But based on the salary budget that we already have for the club."

With Tampines holding out for Mrdakovic, there seems to be little chance of a big-name signing for the S-League's other 11 teams.

Even though there is still a month to go before the league's expected kick-off, a number of clubs have already filled up their slots for the five imports.

This includes clubs with a traditionally bigger wage budget, like Warriors FC and Home United.

In Home's case, they have retained former South Korean international playmaker Lee Kwan Woo, who was voted the S-League's Best Player last season.

Tanjong Pagar have also kept their marquee star from last season - ex-Morocco forward Monsef Zerka.

Warriors coach Alex Weaver revealed that he had attempted to sign former Manchester United and Northern Ireland striker David Healy as a marquee player at the end of last season.

RETIRE

But talks broke down, as the S-League had not confirmed it would be continuing the scheme then, and the 34-year-old Healy decided to retire.

Weaver, though, said he was perfectly fine having none of his five foreign imports on the scheme.

"I'm not exactly a big fan of the status," said the Englishman. "You have to ask yourself why these (big-name) players would come.

"I just wonder if they are desperate to win an S-League title or if they're just happy to enjoy the fantastic lifestyle Singapore has to offer.

"I'm not trying to be negative on the scheme. It's just that I'd prefer younger, hungrier players than having an older, marquee one."

 

What is an S-League marquee player?

Under the scheme introduced last year, the S-League will subsidise about 30 per cent of the player's salary package, which is not subject to the competition's salary cap of $10,000 a month.

The marquee signing is also exempt from the league's mandatory 2.4km fitness test.

As a gauge, clubs are advised to look for players who have played in a World Cup or have been a club regular in one of the top five European leagues - England, Spain, Italy, Germany or France.

He will also be subject to a panel review on his suitability to attract fans.