Clubs eye marquee stars as subsidy plan looms

With more than a third of the S-League season played, Balestier Khalsa coach Marko Kraljevic has already drawn up a shortlist of foreign players to provide a much-needed boost to his team.

His side languish second from bottom in the nine-team league and have struggled offensively, scoring just five league goals so far.

With news of the Marquee Player Scheme's probable return for the second transfer window (May 16 to June 10), the tactician welcomes the policy and hopes to come up with his own shopping list.

Under the scheme, which ran from 2012 to 2014, 30 per cent of a marquee player's salary will be subsidised by the league, with players under this scheme believed to earn at least $15,000 a month.

Kraljevic admitted it would be "perfect" should the club sign a high-profile striker through the scheme, given Balestier's positive experience with a star player two seasons ago.

He told The Straits Times: "Some players deliver and some don't, but Goran (Ljubojevic) did a great job for us. We just could not afford his wages after."

The Croatian forward was Balestier's marquee signing in 2014, hitting 20 goals in 27 games during a one-year stint at the club.

Hougang United coach K. Balagumaran agreed that the scheme could be positive for the league - provided clubs have sufficient support in terms of subsidies and sponsorships, in light of Tampines Rovers' recent cash-flow problems.

He said: "(Tampines Rovers') Jermaine Pennant came in and drew a lot of fans back to the S-League. If each club has the financial support, and has a quality player like him, that would be very interesting."

But the S-League also had its fair share of marquee flops. Three years ago, Tampines signed Argentinian defensive midfielder Martin Wagner but he lasted just 10 matches, starting in six, failed to settle down and was released.

Warriors FC suffered similarly that same season with the acquisition of Kazuyuki Toda, a former Japan international with World Cup experience. The defensive midfielder, who cost $20,000 monthly, did not impress on the pitch and retired at the end of the campaign.

With the scheme's likely implementation, Geylang International's technical director Aide Iskandar said that the club are "on the lookout" for available players who can be crowd pullers.

He cited the likes of ex-Swansea forward Michu and former Everton goal-scoring midfielder Tim Cahill as the calibre they are looking at.

But the former national captain added: "We will work within our means. Whatever we want to do, the budget must come first before making a decision."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2016, with the headline 'Clubs eye marquee stars as subsidy plan looms'. Print Edition | Subscribe