‘It’s a salary cap league’ – Melbourne City defiant of media narratives following semi-final success

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Melbourne City have reached a third straight A-League Men grand final, but are refusing to be drawn into any media narratives surrounding their success.

City’s ascension to the top of Australian football seemed somewhat inevitable after being taken over by City Football Group (‘CFG’) back in 2014.

City’s come-from-behind 2-1 semi-final victory over Adelaide United means they will have the chance to become the first team in A-League Men’s history to secure consecutive premiership-championship doubles in next week’s grand final.

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Their opponents in the championship decider, Western United, are making their first appearance in the season’s final game.

When asked whether City’s recent history of finals success gave his side an edge ahead of next Saturday’s clash, head coach Patrick Kisnorbo was quick to reject the suggestion.

“Not really,” he said,

“It is 90 plus minutes and there are two teams competing.”

Kisnorbo was then pressed on whether he was thinking about the potential to make history with his City side by securing back-to-back doubles.

“I don’t really think about that stuff,” he said.

“I am just concentrating on tomorrow’s training. We will see how everyone pulls up and take it one step at a time.”

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The City coach’s responses are indicative of his approach to wider media narratives throughout the season.

Kisnorbo has consistently rebuffed attempts to draw out more substantial story arcs from his side’s performances, instead exhibiting a stubborn ‘game at a time’ philosophy.

Clearly the tactic has paid dividends in many ways judging by his team’s success on the pitch.

City’s achievements are difficult to dispute, regardless of any criticisms that may be levelled about the way in which those achievements have come about.

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Perhaps the most persistent of these criticisms is the financial backing that City have received since being taken over by CFG.

In a league where many clubs are cash-strapped and their continued existence as entities appears regularly in doubt, such as Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners, City offer a stark contrast.

Nonetheless, equating City’s resourcing to their on-field success is, according to Kisnorbo, a serious misstep.

“You talk about money or whatever, but like you said number one it is a salary cap league,” he said.

“Pre-season we trained on a football pitch.”

“We might have financial backing for the whole group but that does not mean anything.”

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Kisnorbo expressed a frustration at the focus on City’s resourcing compared to their competitors and believes that, in practice, the differences are minimal.

“Western Sydney at the moment, currently, they have a better training facility than us. Does that mean they are richer?,” he said.

“You say because we are backed by CFG, but when you look at it, it is completely different in reality.”

Kisnorbo also believes there is a consistent failure to recognise the benefits that his club are bringing to Australia football, whether it be through promotion of youth players or improving football infrastructure.

“We want to improve Australian football. We are a football club. That’s it,” he said.

“When we implement better infrastructure, it does not go into the cap. It does not improve the squad. It helps the whole club in general.

“I think we are all the same to be honest with you.”

Kisnorbo’s sentiments are no doubt controversial, although there is certainly merit to the argument that financing does not necessarily equate to silverware.

For City to have achieved as they have over recent seasons requires a squad of adequately motivated footballers executing a style of play which is effective at securing results.

Kisnorbo likely feels this fact is often overlooked in favour of more negative responses to City’s success.

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Equally, though, a suggestion that all A-Leagues clubs are, in practice, operating in effectively the same way due to salary cap restrictions is disingenuous.

Irrespective of considerations like scouting and facilities, the ability to even fill a salary cap with high-calibre players is not available to clubs with unstable ownership and, by extension, unreliable finances.

Nonetheless, City have clearly been effective at ignoring outside criticism.

In some cases, they even use it as motivation.

Star striker Jamie Maclaren showcased his club’s defiant mentality when the fact was raised that they have not yet beaten Western United, their opponents in next week’s grand final, this season.

“You love bringing that up, don’t you?” he said.

“It is also a fact that we won the premiership.

“No matter how many questions you guys want to say about, ‘You haven’t beaten this, you haven’t beaten that’, we will just keep our head down and look to Saturday.”

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Maclaren is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to establish a dynasty at City should they secure another trophy next week.

“I think it would be huge,” he said.

“It is what we set out to do ever since Erick Mombaerts joined the club and obviously PK [Patrick Kisnorbo] took over after Erick.”

Regardless of what anyone outside the club says, City are no doubt determined to establish themselves as the dominant force in Australian football.

Success next Saturday would go a long way to achieving that goal.

Feature Image Credit: Melbourne City FC

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Oscar Rutherford
Sports tragic studying Law/Arts at Monash University. Second-best paid Oscar working in football who has been to China.

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