Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop hit back at Tim Cahill's suggestion football administrators lack vision for the A-League, claiming the Socceroos star turned down the chance to play in Australia in pursuit of more lucrative offers.
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After mutually terminating his contract with Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua this week and reportedly being paid a $5.6 million severance fee, Cahill lashed out at Australian football on Thursday, saying the A-League lacked "vision" for growing the game.
That claim has been refuted by the FFA which says several parties attempted to sign Cahill after being notified of his availability, only to be told they could not afford his services.
Cahill responded to Gallop's allegation on Instagram, posting:
"I have been really hurt by some of the things that have been said and written about me today.
"The most hurtful of all these is the suggestion that I had made it clear to the FFA that it could not meet my NEEDS. This is totally incorrect. I have never said that, nor anything like it. Since my contract was terminated earlier this week, I have not spoken to anyone at the FFA about any contractual terms or about money.
"The reason for me not being able to consider an Aleague move is that the transfer window had closed when my Shanghai Shenhua contract was mutually terminated. According to FIFA regulations, no Aleague club could sign me. It was the FFA who informed me of this and that was the end of the conversation with the FFA."
STATEMENT RE A-LEAGUE I have been really hurt by some of the things that have been said and written about me today. The most hurtful of all these is the suggestion that I had made it clear to the FFA that it could not meet my NEEDS. This is totally incorrect. I have never said that, nor anything like it. Since my contract was terminated earlier this week, I have not spoken to anyone at the FFA about any contractual terms or about money. The reason for me not being able to consider an Aleague move is that the transfer window had closed when my Shanghai Shenhua contract was mutually terminated. According to FIFA regulations, no Aleague club could sign me. It was the FFA who informed me of this and that was the end of the conversation with the FFA. The most important thing from my point of view is to contribute as much as I possibly can to the Socceroos qualifying for the next World Cup. To do this, I have to be playing regularly. We have crucial games coming up in March. It's been a tough day having to sit back and read everything but at least now the picture is painted properly. I appreciate so much the support so many of you have given me today. That means everything to me. I hope this sheds some light on what has happened. I feel obliged to share this with all the supporters who have been so loyal.
Earlier, one of the first phone calls to Cahill was said to have been made by Gallop who asked whether the striker would be interested in coming to the A-League to provide a much-needed profile boost for the competition.
Australian clubs expressed their interest, as did other FFA administrators. According to Gallop, Cahill informed all parties they could not meet his asking price, ending hopes of signing the Australian international before formal negotiations could take place.
"We contacted Tim and his advisors immediately when we heard that he's not going to be part of Shanghai any longer," Gallop said. "A number of our clubs contacted him immediately. I personally was in contact with him. He made it clear immediately that we couldn't meet his needs."
Australian clubs have long tried to bring Cahill back to Australia. When his career at New York Red Bulls started to look shaky in 2014 it is understood he was offered a four-match guest deal worth $100,000 per-game with Sydney FC which was turned down by Cahill's management.
The Sky Blues made a formal approach to sign Cahill immediately after the 2014 World Cup but never entered serious negotiations due to his asking price being well in excess of the club's marquee budget. That bid was one of many attempts Australian football made to try and lure the country's all-time leading goal scorer home. Cahill cited a lack of vision then as a reason he signed with Shanghai Shenhua rather than an A-League club
"I asked for grassroots, I asked for a project, I asked for a vision - vision isn't just about money," Cahill said in February 2015.
A formal meeting is understood to have taken place in Osaka, Japan, in November 2014 where the FFA made a proposal for Cahill to become the face of a bid for a South Sydney A-League club whether as a player or an investor. The deal broke down due to disagreements about Cahill's academy being adopted nationally and the control he would have over the A-League licence.
In an interview with News Ltd this week, Cahill says he may never play in the A-League due to a lack of ambition from local clubs.
"I just need vision, I've never asked for anything but that," Cahill said. "The only thing is, some people's vision is not as big as mine and it's tough, because it depends where they want to be. Where does the A-League want to be?"
The FFA says it has always been open to Cahill returning home and met with clubs to arrange a bid for him to return.
"We would love to have Tim in the A-League and we were very clear about our vision, our confidence in the league," Gallop said. "We have a 20-year vision in our game that we released a year ago. We have our four-year strategy in place, which is very much about the quality in competition, the growth that will give us and the financial stability that will give us and we must responsibly and prudently invest our funds."