Wellington's star former Premier League striker import Gary Hooper and Perth Glory defender Jacob Tratt have left the A-League to the Indian Super League over night.

Hooper joins Kerala Blasters and Tratt joins Odisha FC as the ISL seeks to spread talent across their league in the fashion of many growing Asian competitions.


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These two moves follow Joel Chianese's recent move to Hyderabad FC, and the previous moves of David Williams, Roy Krishna, Erik Paartalu, Bobo and about a dozen others, all the way back to Alessandro Del Piero and beyond.

Admittedly, it's mainly mid-tier A-League talent leaving to India presently, but once upon a time only mid-tier A-League talent left to China. The league Sepp Blatter called "the sleeping giant" of world football took only a few weeks after its inception to leapfrog Serie A and become the fourth most popular football league in the world and is recording growth of up to 41% each year.

The ISL now plays host to a far bigger collection of foreign stars than the A-League, with a cursory glance over the competition's current imports revealing a namedropper's wet dream of former Premier League, La Liga and Serie A stalwarts.

The ISL's general strategy has always been to provide a retirement cash injection for ageing stars, who have already played in Asian leagues like the Chinese Super League or A-League, and are now seeking to end their careers with a (financial) bang. India was almost always the third, and final, rung on the ladder.

But due to tighter purse strings and increased competition in the global football marketplace, the ISL's financial clout (and they have a lot of money) is now proving far more appealing to a wider range of quality players at younger ages than ever before.

We talked about it recently with Aaron Mooy's move to China, illustrating the fact that contrary to popular belief, Mooy probably wouldn't have been wanted by the uber-competitive Chinese clubs any older than his career peak.

India is still many years behind China in their league's development, but they are moving forward a lot quicker than Australia.

The ISL's own development has been amplified by the rapidly raising quality standards in leagues like China, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, many of which are now regarded as superior to the A-League.

It was always going to get easier for India to attract bigger names as their Asian rivals stopped competing for them.

But due to Fox Sports' decision to renege on their A-League broadcasting arrangement, now the A-League faces a bigger threat from India than ever before. Only Australia's biggest clubs - in our most alluring markets - can currently compete with ISL sides.

But even then, as we've seen with reports out of India indicating Sydney FC star Adam Le Fondre has already agreed terms with Mumbai City, the A-League's biggest clubs will struggle to compete with India's biggest clubs.

Mumbai City, FYI, is part of Manchester City's CFG family. The value of ISL players this season - with recruitment only getting warmed up - is already worth over $70 million and rising.

You can forget any off-field advantages Australia may have over India in the long-term as well. If A-League imports weren't principally motivated by money, most of them probably would have stayed at home. India offers more money, bigger stars and packed stadiums.

But rather than be a problem the A-League can hope to solve by removing the salary cap and granting A-League club's independence, this issue is entirely out of Australia's hands: India's rise is as inevitable as the sun's. 

Over the past decade we've began to see India emerge as a genuine world power, following the path set by China in raising huge segments of their population out of poverty through strong fiscal policy and a competitive manufacturing industry. 

Just as quickly as we saw the rise of China's billionaire-class filter into their football landscape and quickly eclipse Australia (a few years ago Joel Griffiths was the CSL's biggest Aussie star, now it's Aaron Mooy), we will now witness India loom over us as well.

The A-League (broadly speaking) has a choice. Develop its own talent alongside a successful transfer system, creating its own stars rather than recruiting them and then selling them to ensure its financial future.

Or, take the Indian Superannuation League's place, recruiting the players too old for Indian clubs, for one last victory lap down under.

The choice is already being made.


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