Why young Aussie footballers should be flocking to Europe

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It takes a very minimal amount of research to see that the finest footballers this country has created, were developed elsewhere…

Harry Kewell, 274 Premier League appearances, moved to England to trial with Leeds when he was 15. Mark Schwarzer, Australia’s most capped footballer, moved to Germany when he was 22. Mark Viduka, 92 Premier League goals, moved to Croatia when he was 20. Tim Cahill, Australia’s greatest ever goalscorer, moved to England and signed with Millwall at 18.

Pointing out that Australia’s greatest ever players all played in Europe at some stage in their career requires little insight. That’s where all the best players in the world go to play. But, the fact that the six highest-capped Australians to debut for the Socceroos in the last 20 years all moved to Europe before the age of 23 goes a long way to highlight the promise of an early move out of the country.

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The table below shows the number of players, 23 years or younger, that made their league debuts this season in the A-League Men. Comparing that to the number that did so in each of the ‘big five’ European leagues.

Despite the obvious increase in quality of football, number of spectators and the raise in stakes, opportunity for young players is evidently more present in Europe than it is in Australia.

Of course, inexperienced players earning minutes at the peak of domestic football isn’t necessarily relevant to a lot of young Australian footballers. The likelihood of them possessing the quality to earn such a debut in one of these leagues is very low. That’s where European football gets even better for up-and-coming talent.

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The opportunity for young footballers is even more vast in the second-divisions of European football. With crowd averages that largely dwarf that of the ALM and the stature of clubs that inhabit these leagues, they are an ideal target for young Australians with an eye to climb the footballing ladder.

 

 

 

 

 

With the size and level of Australia’s second tier incomparable to that of those in Europe, the ALM is the only port of call for genuinely promising footballers to make their next step in Australia.

A league of only 12 clubs carrying the weight of its own desperation to grow as a product against other ever-evolving codes in the country is far from a beacon of opportunity for unproven and unknown footballers. An almost constantly unavailable Daniel Sturridge or a pushing-40 Alessandro Del-Piero does far more for the league than a young talent grinding his way into a matchday squad.

Denis Genreau, Harry Souttar and Alessandro Circati are fine examples of three Australians reaping the rewards of second division football in France, England and Italy respectively. The image below of 18-year-old Circati celebrating a win with his goalkeeper can on its own vouch for the supreme level of personnel present in these leagues.

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Add to all of this the prospect of promotion – 15 second division teams across Europe will be promoted into the top flight in their country every season. At the same time, 15 clubs will fall to the second tier. A never-ending ski lift aboard which young athletes can earn a spot through their grafting in the lower tier. Branches on a climbable tree where Australia offers only a single, elite table.

In the January squad released by Socceroos coach, Graham Arnold, 16 players out of the 25 play their domestic football outside of Australia. The squads of England and Italy, for example, have just two and three players respectively that play overseas. Acceptance that Australian international football is built overseas is overdue. Motions should be put in place to help Australian youngsters venture overseas and into a system that will not only serve them as individuals, but will benefit the national team in the long run.

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For now, the cream of the Australian football crop should be grown elsewhere.

Allowing footballers to learn and improve in a real football world, with a vision of the Socceroos as a proud reunion of widespread talent.

In this case, the grass is simply greener on the other side.

Feature image credit: Alen Delic

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Tom Macraehttp://medium.com/@macraetomr23
Communications undergrad at Western Sydney University covering Macarthur FC in the 2021/22 season. Newcastle United. Jack Grealish fangirl.

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