Why ISL makes perfect sense for Tim Cahill's final hurrah
Before Tim Cahill turns 39 in December, the former Premier League star will have earned his 108th and final cap for Australia and started a new chapter in the Indian Super League (ISL).
This week, the Socceroos' all-time top scorer ended speculation about his future by signing a one-year contract with Jamshedpur FC for the 2018-19 campaign.
India coach Stephen Constantine tipped Cahill to make a big impact for the side from eastern India who are preparing for their second season in the fifth edition of the ISL.
"This is quite a coup for the ISL... Tim is a big personality and I'm sure he will add value to the league," Constantine told ESPN.in.
"I'm sure some of Tim's traits will rub off on the Indian players. He has a great work ethic, having been a top pro for a long time. You don't stay at the top by not looking after yourself and being disciplined.
"He has lost a bit of pace, which is only natural at almost 39. But Tim is a clever player, and, with his experience, I am sure he is going to be a major factor in the games."
And while the midfielder-turned-striker won't suit up for Australia in their Asian Cup defence in the United Arab Emirates in January, he will be given a chance to say goodbye to the fans in a November 20th friendly against Lebanon in his hometown of Sydney.
It will present the perfect way for the enigmatic attacker to bring down the curtain on his professional career.
He had toyed with a return to Major League Soccer -- he spent three years with New York Red Bulls between 2012 and 2015 -- but the nine-month season of the MLS would be too gruelling, given Cahill's age.
While the ISL won't be easy -- the relatively remote Jamshedpur will mean some long road trips -- the 12-round format is the right length for the ageing limbs of a man whose senior career began in 1998.
The season kicks off on September 29 and will run until March. There will be three international breaks, which will give Cahill time for promotional activities and family duties.
Cahill will be the biggest name in the Jamshedpur FC squad, and easily one of the most-accomplished players in the 2018-19 ISL.
Last season, ex-Manchester United winger Steve Coppell was in charge as Jamshedpur FC finished in a commendable fifth position, narrowly missing out on the finals. This year, they have a strong Spanish flavour with ex-Atletico Madrid boss Cesar Ferrando appointed as manager, and three of his countrymen in the squad.
Jamshedpur FC are on a pre-season tour of Spain, culminating with a September 13 friendly against Atletico Madrid's B team. They're using Atletico's Los Angeles de San Rafael training facility as their base.
With his on-field influence diminishing, Cahill has barely featured at club level over the past couple of years. After falling out with Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce midway through the 2017-18 A-League season, he made an emotional return to England with Millwall, where he took his first steps as a professional player two decades ago.
But he played a total of just 65 minutes in 14 matches with the second-tier side, coming off the bench in the dying stages of matches. He failed to add to his tally of 57 goals for the club.
Despite speculation that he might be overlooked for Russia 2018 by Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, the popular No. 4 became the first Aussie to play in four World Cups. However, Van Marwijk waited until the final Group C match to inject Cahill into the tournament, giving him just 30 minutes as Australia lost 2-0 to Peru in Sochi to be eliminated.
His farewell game for his country will come as new coach Graham Arnold puts his mark on a national squad that has struggled to score goals without Cahill.
The Socceroos will face South Korea in Brisbane in a replay of the 2015 World Cup final on November 17 before Cahill's Sydney swansong three days later.
As for ending his playing career in India, Cahill seems to be attracted by the chance to pursue his passion of developing emerging talent. Since 2013, he has headed up the Tim Cahill Academy in Australia.
"I know I can help the team on and off the park with my leadership and experience. I want to help grow the game and encourage young kids to play football," he said on Twitter.
Coaching professional players also interests Cahill who recently studied for his UEFA 'B' licence in Wales, and has been tipped as a future Socceroos' head coach by his former Everton teammate Phil Neville.
Cahill admitted that he consulted his cricket-playing friend Brett Lee before making his decision to sign with an Indian club. Lee is a popular figure in the world's largest democracy and has even appeared in Bollywood films and TV commercials.
But Jamshedpur is a long way from the bright lights of Bollywood. It is two-and-half hour flight from Mumbai -- almost 1,800km by road -- with Kolkata a mere 280km away.
As the home to the first private iron and steel company of India, Jamshedpur has the nickname of the Steel City.
So, it is fitting that the robust and durable Timothy Filiga Cahill has chosen the most populous metropolis of the blue-collar state of Jharkhand for his final hurrah.
Jason Dasey is a host for ESPN.in and runs a Singapore-based company, Cockatoo Media