Some of the world's top football stars David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Michael Owen and Raul Gonzalez could soon be seen in action during a franchise-based tournament to be launched by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and its commercial partner IMG-Reliance early next year.
Beckham, Henry and Raul are closely working with IMG in different projects to promote the game and the sports management group is pursuing them to be a part of the eight-team tournament that will be played in India from January 14 to March 13.
"IMG has professional contracts with some stars like Beckham, Raul and Henry and there is a high possibility that they can be seen either playing or promoting the new league that will be held next year," a top AIFF official told IANS.
Former England captain Beckham, who recently retired from football, is contracted with IMG to promote football in China as its brand ambassador while ex-Real Madrid legend Raul, who is playing with Qatari club Al Sadd, and Henry work with the IMG Academy on a regular basis. IMG are also consultants to the Qatar Football Association for the 2022 World Cup.
IMG's senior vice-president (football) Jefferson Slack is in talks with the international players to convince them to play in the league.
"IMG have started targetting some of the just retired international stars to play in the tournament. According to the joint venture between Reliance and IMG, the sports management group has to get some international stars for the league," the official said.
Each of the eight teams in the new league is expected to have a squad of 25 players, including half-a-dozen foreign recruits.
The official also said that teams will be up for grabs through a bidding process by August.
The franchise-based football tournament is expected to glamourise the sport in the country, like what the Indian Premier League (IPL) did to cricket.
But the AIFF is yet to decide on the players' transfer and club registration rules and may have to ring in some changes in its constitution for the tournament.
The AIFF wants all the eight clubs to be centrally registered but according to current rules clubs can only be registered with state associations.
IMG-Reliance will also have to take players on loan from the I-League clubs for two months and players transfer rules also have to be amended.