MELBOURNE - Former Liverpool forward Harry Kewell has come under fire from the Australian media and bloggers for flirting with a return home to play in the domestic A-League but opting against the move for financial reasons.
Kewell's manager Bernie Mandic poured cold water on the 32-year-old international's return on Monday, telling a local radio station that the free agent would be chasing deals overseas after negotiations fell through with league administrators.
Regarded as one of Australia's finest football exports, Kewell had been pursued by several A-League clubs and was offered top-up payments through a marketing deal by Football Federation Australia to promote the struggling league.
The governing body baulked at his management's demand for a large share of gate takings at away games, however, despite the boost Kewell's return would give the competition, which has battled declining crowds and financial troubles in recent years.
"Whatever the rights or wrongs, the latest development in the drawn-out Harry Kewell saga has left a bad taste in the mouths of Australian fans," The Australian newspaper said in an op-ed piece on Tuesday.
"It is clear that any semblance of goodwill that surrounded the much trumpeted arrival of Kewell into the A-League has been flushed down the toilet of crude opportunism and brinkmanship."
Kewell, released from Galatasaray earlier this year after three seasons at the Turkish club, may have damaged his brand and value among fans, prominent football writer Michael Lynch wrote in the Age newspaper.
"Helping the game grow would be nice. Providing a marketing and sponsorship boost would be a handy bonus. Drawing a whole new crowd of theatregoers fixated on big names? Well that would be an added bonus," he said.
"But it turns out everything was incidental. Cash is king. Harry, Bernie, why didn't you just say so in the first place? We would all have respected you even more in the morning."
Internet users ridiculed the footballer's contractual negotiations, compiling a list of "demands" on social networking website Twitter.
"A-League to be renamed the H-League, club he signs for to be renamed "Kewell +10," tweeted one user.
Australia's youngest international debutant at the age of 17 and a member of the nation's 2006 and 2010 World Cup squads, the injury-prone Kewell has endured a sometimes fraught relationship with local media.
The subject of a media circus over his fitness during the World Cup finals in South Africa last year, Kewell engaged in a slanging match with a local journalist who suggested he had contributed more to fashion magazines than Australian football in the lead-up to the tournament.
Australia were eliminated in the first round group stage with Kewell missing the 4-0 defeat to Germany before getting sent off after 24 minutes of the side's 1-1 draw with Ghana. He was suspended for the team's final match against Serbia.comments