Indian football is set to get a major boost as it prepares to host a competition - with the likes of Fabio Cannavaro, Robert Pires and Robbie Fowler - that hopes to replicate the success of cricket's Indian Premier League (IPL).
The Celebrity Management Group (CMG) has signed a 30-year deal with the Indian Football Association for the league, which is set to contain other former international stars like Fernando Morientes, Hernan Crespo, Jay-Jay Okocha and Maniche in its first year.
The competition will begin on February 25 and run until April 8, with 30 players and six coaches auctioned off in the city of Kolkata.
"We have signed seven 'icon' players for the auction and each of the six teams will have one such player with a $600,000 salary cap," Bhaswar Goswami, executive director of CMG told Reuters. "We have started with six teams this year, all in the state of West Bengal but have already been approached to expand the league to other parts of the country.
"Every team will have $2.5 million to spend in the first year. They will have a maximum of four foreigners and a compulsory six under-21 Indian players in their squad."
A cricket-dominated India has a poor domestic league, while its international team ranks 162nd in the FIFA rankings. However, an estimated 60 million Indians watched the 2009-10 Premier League season on television and Goswami is sure that the league can help.
"The league is modelled on Major League Soccer and of course IPL," Goswami added. "We saw the hype and buzz around players' auction in IPL and feel it can be an equal success. It's a brilliant concept. We expect owners to make profit much earlier than the IPL franchises. We are also in the process of finalising television rights for live broadcast across south-east Asia."
Pires, a former Arsenal midfielder, claimed that he would be paid at least €395,000 for seven weeks and said he was excited to embark on a new adventure.
"Since I had nothing in Europe, why not try something completely unknown? I've never been over there," Pires told L'Equipe's website. "I am proud to be the first Frenchman to go and play there. And eight weeks is nothing.
"If my (club) president likes me, it could be €790,000 ($1 million). It is a lot of money. I'm not going to complain about that am I? But I'm not going there as a tourist. It's a new adventure."