Unlike most leagues around the world, the A-Leagues have continuously persisted with a salary cap and limited marquee signings for each club.
The would explain why the then Football Federation Australia (FFA) and the newly formed Australian Professional Leagues (APL) have been carefully cautious about which key signings to acquire from abroad.
Perhaps the most notable example is Alessandro Diamanti, who was deemed “not high-profile enough” by the FFA’s standards when Melbourne Victory came calling.
Different circumstances in 2008 halted a move to Gold Coast United for an unfamiliar player by the name of Guilherme ‘Gui’ Finkler, due to financial struggles at the club that resulted in it’s license being revoked.
The Brazilian realised his dream move to Australia four years after that disappointment, where he signed for Melbourne Victory and etched his name as one of the competition’s greatest imports.
Now back in his home country, the 38-year-old is continuing his football journey off the pitch as a licensed football agent and aspiring to develop young talents through their careers.
Speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum, Finkler turned back the clock to reflect on how he fell in love with the game.
“I was one of many kids growing up in Brazil wanting to become a professional footballer,” he said.
“I have many friends who I catch up with to this day and they all tell me that they wish they could have a career in the game, so I am very grateful.
“As the years passed by during my junior days, I started to become more confident that I could achieve my dreams as my passion grew stronger.
“At the age of around 16, there are a lot of things in life you can enjoy such as spending time with family and friends or partying.
“But you need to make a decision about whether you want to be a professional or something else, and being a professional was all I ever wanted.”
Despite a brief one-year spell with the Wellington Phoenix during the 2017/17 campaign, Finkler will always be remembered for his time with the navy blue side of Melbourne.
He played a pivotal role in Victory’s success by helping the club achieve the domestic double and a minor premiership.
Commonly known as a free kick specialist, 20 goals and 17 assists across 94 appearances that spanned across four seasons made him a fan favourite amongst the Victory faithful.
The former attacking midfielder explained how the move eventuated and opened up on his time at the club.
“Ange Postecoglou actually found me in Brazil and I moved at the same time as him to Victory in 2012,” Finkler said.
“It was a great experience to be coached by him and he definitely got the best out of me, but unfortunately we didn’t spend much time together (Postecoglou accepted the Socceroos coaching role).
“When I first moved to Australia, I didn’t know much about the league and the club as well as the language so that was a real challenge for me.
“It was a good opportunity for me to live in a great country and experience a completely new culture with my family in an amazing city.
“Melbourne Victory is a great club that always looked after me and I’m really happy that I made that decision, because they were the best moments of my career.”
Hanging up the boots in 2018 after a stint in Lithuania for FK Sūduva, it was difficult to imagine a life without being involved in football in some sort of capacity.
That imagination never materialised into reality, as Finkler now represents some of Brazil’s finest footballing prospects as a licensed agent.
With a new passion excitingly brewing, Finkler explained his role and the work done behind the scenes.
“I have played football since I was five years old and I just didn’t want to escape the enjoyment I have for the game,” he said.
“Now I am involved off the pitch as an agent, but first I had some offers to be an assistant coach which I turned down, because I didn’t want to be involved in a club environment again. Especially in Brazil, you don’t know how long you will last and it wasn’t something I was looking for.
“Taking my family into consideration, I chose the path of being a football agent, because I really want to be an important figure in a footballer’s life which is something I really miss when someone would listen to me or pick up the phone when I needed to talk.
“Everyone will call and send messages if you score a hat-trick, but not when you miss a penalty. When things don’t go well during the game or you feel frustrated, it can be challenging, so I want to be a part of that journey again to be not only an agent, but a friend of the players I am representing.
“I am not looking to work with someone who will only talk about signing a contract and then a year down the line, call again to discuss negotiations.
“All of my players are from Brazil, but I would soon like to explore some talents overseas and maybe Australia one day.
“With the team of agents we have, we split up to watch different games and carefully analyse potential prospects, but it’s not always the players with the most talent that make it as they also need to be strong mentally.
“I have around 10 players so far who are all around 15 to 20 years old and I’m really enjoying it so far, because it is my way of giving back to football.”
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Although Finkler’s new chapter has been a rewarding experience thus far, it hasn’t come without challenges.
The former A-Leagues champion provided an example regarding one of his players and stressed the importance of being more than just an agent.
“I had an experience three months ago where one player was a number 10 at the beginning when we found him,” Finkler said.
“The coach dropped him deeper in the midfield as a number eight and he wasn’t happy, because he wanted to play as a number 10 which is a number most Brazilians dream of wearing.
“All of a sudden he got dropped as a right-back and he called me straight away and said, ‘there is no way I am playing in that position and I want to leave the club’.
“That meant that we needed to support him and make sure that he continued to stay positive and be in the right mindset.
“We started to encourage him after he was dropped from the starting 11 and assured him that he could have a great career at right-back, also because it’s a position that Brazil has struggled to develop top talents over the years.
“Every day, we made it a priority to call him to check up on him and try to lift his spirits.
“Right now he is the starting right-back of the team and is the vice-captain, so these moments I really appreciate and I like to share, because it’s about working around difficult challenges and overcoming them.”
Whether it involves lacing up the boots to play football, coaching, working as part of the backroom staff, or pursuing a career as an agent, the weight of pressure will never vanish.
When asked if being a player or an agent requires more tension and stress, Finkler opted for the latter.
“To be honest, there is more pressure off the pitch,” he said.
“When I was playing, it becomes a matter of enjoying the game and not thinking too much about anything else, but when I’m off the pitch, the pressure stays for longer.
“This is something I have to work on from my side and try to manage those situations, which is still a learning process.”
Having just settled into a new chapter of his life, the Brazilian is only getting started as he aims to take his passion for agency to the next level.
What goals and objectives has Finkler set for himself to achieve in the near future?
“My goal as an agent is to not have too many players, because I don’t want to be one of those agents that have 300 players under their name,” he said.
“I don’t have a specific target of how many players I want to work with, but it needs to be reasonable so I can work closely with them, because I want to be known as a friend to them and someone who they can trust and rely upon.
“Building that strong relationship is very important and I want my players to be able to say to someone, ‘speak to Gui and he will sort everything out’.
“I know it’s not going to be easy and there will be times when I might become frustrated, but I still believe that I can give so much back to football.”