Zlatan to the A-League – the Pros and the Cons

In recent times, rumours have begun circling that Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be making a move to the A-League.

At face value, ‘Ibra’ in the A-League sounds like a fantastic proposition.

He’s a living legend who has won titles just about everywhere he’s gone. AC Milan, Barcelona, Juventus, Inter Milan, Ajax, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United are all huge clubs he has played for during his illustrious career.

Say what you will about his arrogance and ego, but it’s a part of why he’s so revered. He doesn’t put on a mask, he is unequivocally himself.

Zlatan would instantly become the biggest name in the league today and one of the biggest names to ever come Down Under.

The exposure that soccer in Australia would get as a result of his arrival in the country would be phenomenal. When Zlatan first arrived in Los Angeles as a part of his move to the MLS, it was the biggest soccer news story at the time. And the MLS is a much larger competition than the A-League.

People from across the globe would start watching A-League fixtures and stadiums would be packed to the rafters.

In a time where soccer in Australia could use a popularity boost, Zlatan would bring people across from other sports and be the star attraction in Australia.

Shirts sales would skyrocket. Fans from other clubs would buy shirts purely because it’s Zlatan.

I mean, you’d be silly not to.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the A-League could be the necessary sugar hit the A-League needs. But that could be all it is. A sugar hit. A flash in the pan.

David Villa was fantastic when he was loaned out to Melbourne City, albeit for the mere four games.

Ibra would probably play more than four matches, but the rumours are also stating that he could be in the country for as little as six weeks.

That’s nowhere near enough time.

Once Zlatan leaves, any overseas exposure that arose from his arrival in Australia would instantly dissipate. Fans from other sports would return to their sports of choice.

Basically, any and all interest garnered from Zlatan being in the league would go with Zlatan.

Australian-based soccer fans would understandably feel aggrieved by his departure. There are also many soccer fans based here that do not follow the A-League, instead preferring the European leagues.

After Zlatan leaves, where do you think they’ll go? Back to their Optus Sport subscriptions.

When you look at Zlatan’s playing career, you’ll notice one recurring theme.

At all but one club he’s played for, he’s never made more than 90 appearances.

He made 122 for Paris Saint-Germain during his four year stint in France’s capital, but he has never been one to stay the course with one club.

Four years is indeed his longest tenure at any club but even that’s lower than most players.

What does all this mean? He’s not a loyal player. He doesn’t play for the club. His character is such that he only ever sees what’s in it for him.

What would that mean for whichever A-League club would pick him up?

It would mean that it’s nothing more than a cash grab for him. It would almost be paid leave for someone like Zlatan.

He would train once or twice and play the weekend’s game. But he wouldn’t be giving it his all. His heart wouldn’t be in it.

Yes, he plays with passion and hunger unlike 99% of every player out there. But it’s not as if he’s playing for any reward other than money.

There wouldn’t be much motivation for him.

As a club, do you want your highest paid player to be someone who would be apathetic? I certainly wouldn’t, nor should any other club’s executives.

Zlatan would be a huge coup for the A-League. His name is enough to draw a crowd wherever he goes.

But if his rumoured stint in the A-League would be as little as six to eight weeks, would it be a worthwhile investment for the league and its stakeholders?

That’s for you to decide.

 

 

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Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

Western Melbourne Group unveils plans for landmark sports and residential development

Western Melbourne Group project partners

The Western Melbourne Group (WMG) has revealed its major partners for the $2 billion project that will become Australia’s first sport and recreation focused suburb.

WMG and Western United FC Executive Chairman, Jason Sourasis, made the announcement via the club’s website last Friday, revealing Victorian property developer YourLand Developments and global building technology firm Johnson Controls as its major project partners.

Johnson Controls are a world leader in building sustainability and technology, and will provide valuable input to the sporting infrastructure of the development, which includes Australia’s first privately-owned, football-specific stadium.

They will also assist in the expansion of United’s current football facilities, including 3 FIFA Pro outdoor playing surfaces and a 5,000 capacity second stadium.

“We’re absolutely delighted to work alongside some of the leading Australian and international property partners for this ground-breaking project, which will deliver both economic and social benefits to Melbourne’s West and, more broadly, the state of Victoria,” Sourasis said via press release.

Ali Badreddine, Vice-president and head of Project Delivery and Sustainable Infrastructure for Johnson Controls – Asia Pacific, is confident the company will deliver the long-held aspirations of Western United.

“At Johnson Controls, we have a legacy of nearly 140 years of innovation, technology, and energy efficiency. We are proud to be a technology leader with deep experience in the sports and entertainment sector, providing enhanced safety, improved sustainability, and more connected experiences for fans and athletes,” he added in a statement.

“We look forward to working with Western Melbourne Group and other valued partners to deliver sustainable development through our integrated solutions.”

The second major partner announced, YourLand Developments, has delivered several residential projects and redevelopments across the state of Victoria.

It is expected to take the lead on the project’s residential plans in conjunction with the Wyndham City Council, aiming to provide over 900 residential dwellings and recreation focused wetlands.

Sourasis believes its affiliation with the property developer is a no-brainer.

“YourLand Developments’ experience in creating sustainable communities, where people aspire to live and work, aligns perfectly to the values of our region and was therefore a natural partner,” he added via press release.

“YourLand has a proud legacy in Melbourne’s west, delivering over 2,500 lots as well as town centres, parks, open spaces and wetlands, in addition to commercial assets.”

YourLand Developments Chief Operating Officer Dean Gold considers the company as the best fit for the community-building aspect of the project.

“YourLand Developments has a proud history of successful development in the western suburbs of Melbourne, delivering places and communities with real substance and integrity that are designed to leave a positive and enduring legacy. YourLand’s team of highly skilled professionals have the experience and passion to take this project from vision to reality,” he added in a statement.

Returning to its focus on sport and recreation, WMG plans to include a high-performance district within the mixed-use suburb that Western United’s official gym partner, VERVE Fitness, will help to develop.

The club is currently in a four-year collaboration with the Australian-owned company, who provide the club with state-of-the-art gym facilities that aid the development of its A-Leagues and football academy players.

VERVE CEO Niall Wogan explained it will make a valuable contribution to WMG’s desire for a high-performance district.

“Our sponsorship of Western United Football Club marks a commitment to not only fostering athletic excellence but also championing the development of the precinct area, where our facilities will serve as a vibrant hub for the entire Wyndham community,” he said via media release.

“Together, we aim to build a legacy of health, unity, and shared victories that resonate far beyond the pitch.”

The entire project is forecast for completion by 2034 and will play a huge role in football’s expansion both locally and nationally. Executive Chairman Sourasis summated the importance of the plan.

“This is truly the most exciting project in Melbourne’s sporting landscape and will create only the second A-League broadcast compliant, rectangular stadium in the State. As one of the newest football teams in the Australian domestic league, creating a welcoming and safe space for our fans is our top priority and this project will set our club up for the long-term,” he added in a statement.

The investment in football infrastructure and community development by Western United should inspire its competitors to make similar headway, and capture the sport’s current boom following the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Ange Postecoglou’s journey has laid a path for future Australian coaches to succeed in Europe

At Football Victoria’s Community in Business Full Time Luncheon event, special guests discussed Ange Postecoglou’s brilliant start at Tottenham Hotspur and explained his journey through the coaching ranks.

Postecoglou’s incredible 27-year coaching resume started at South Melbourne FC, the team he played 10 years with in the old NSL. Ange’s stint at the Roar was memorable, most notably his record-breaking 36-game unbeaten run which saw them win multiple titles during his reign.

After spending time managing the national team and Japanese club Yokohama F. Marinos, it wasn’t until his Celtic managerial move that contributed to the positive reputation spike of Australian managers in the world game.

The Celtic appointment was faced with lots of criticism from the Scottish media and Celtic supporters, but his success made sure that simmered down quickly. It was a huge milestone in Australian football as it was the first time an Aussie manager not only managed a major team in Europe but also won a league title in Europe.

Former South Melbourne FC player Paul Trimboli and Melbourne Victory legend Archie Thompson were on the panel that told their personal anecdotes about how he was on and off the field. This has opened up a wider discussion about Australian coaches in general and how there is quite a lack of success in that area.

Archie Thompson, who played under Postecoglou for his short stint at Melbourne Victory, spoke about his coaching style at the Community in Business event recently.

“He is a little bit difficult to read at first for sure but what I admire is how he was able to evolve. He came into Victory and changed the way he played the game from his Roar days, and it worked. We scored heaps of goals and had success,” Thompson said.

“Ange was solely focused on the team first over any individuals. It was never Thompson 1 or 2-0; it was Victory 2-0 and that’s why he has been so great. He has a knack of appreciating individuals but always keeping the team-first mentality.”

Ange’s incredible journey does paint a picture however of the struggles that Australian coaches have breaking into European football, which is increasingly becoming an issue as more Aussie coaches succeed in both the men’s and women’s game domestically and in Asia.

Gary Cole, President of Football Coaches Australia (FCA) has previously discussed in length about the significant hurdle that these coaches face, which is acquiring the UEFA pro license.

Despite Postecoglou’s deep football coaching resume, his move to Celtic could have been derailed because of the system and rules set in place in order to attain the license, which review the coach’s ability to manage a professional football team.

However, there is no doubt that Ange’s incredible journey and early Manager of the Month success at Tottenham Hotspur will open doors for fellow Aussie managers to be firstly given a chance but to also succeed in Europe.

Kevin Muscat had a small stint at Belgian club Sint-Truiden in 2020, whilst Patrick Kisnorbo managed ESTAC Troyes and became the first ever Australian manager of a team in a ‘top five’ European men’s league. Kisnorbo’s move to fellow City group club  Troyes, thanks to his success at Melbourne City, also presents as a future opportunity for A-League managers who impress.

Whilst the results from both weren’t or haven’t been fantastic, the opportunity was granted to them due to recent success and the foundation potentially laid for the future of Australian coaches in Europe. These moves only increase the validity of the A-League and Australian coaches, especially because of the long journey a lot of these managers go through just to reach that sort of level.

The future is brighter for the reputation and validity of Australian football, a country that is quickly latching on to the sport especially after Men’s and Women’s World cup successes.

Ange Postecoglou continues to shine in the Premier League and his impressive story has no doubt created its own pathway for more Australian coaches to follow with hopefully less obstacles and difficulties.

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