Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou. Photo: Brendan Esposito Perth It’s a dilemma many young players face.
To earn a big pay packet by sitting on the bench at a big club and rarely featuring.
Or to drop down a level and play regularly, improve your game and prospects and in so doing pave the way for an even bigger deal at a bigger club later in your career.
It’s a major talking point in the English game at the moment as the FA rues the fact that so many talented English youngsters seem content to harvest the riches on offer for merely being in a Premier League squad, even if they only play on the odd occasion.
But it’s equally relevant to the Socceroos and the Australian game, and something Ange Postecoglou and the national team coaching staff consider a major issue.
Postecoglou is a firm believer that, unless there are exceptional circumstances or that a player has already proved himself on countless occasions in green and gold, then anyone looking for selection has to prove himself ready by playing regularly.
Many in the game thought that former Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Mitch Langerak was an all round more talented keeper than ex-Central Coast custodian Mat Ryan when the two were in the early stages of their careers.
But it is the latter, a couple of years younger, who has firmly established himself as Postecoglou’s number one, in large part due to the fact that after both moved to Europe he played regularly while Langerak didn’t.
The latter spent years on the bench as back up goalkeeper at one of the world’s biggest clubs, Borussia Dortmund. But he only started occasionally.
Ryan went to the less glamorous Belgian League where he instantly became first choice for Club Brugge. They won the title, progressed in the UEFA Cup, Ryan established himself and is now playing for Valencia in La Liga, one of the best league’s in the world.
Langerak has, only now, moved to VFB Stuttgart but his chances of breaking through have been stymied by a knee injury which has prevented him playing for his new side.
There are several players in the current Socceroo squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers who have faced a similar choice.
Left back Jason Davidson secured a dream move from Holland to the EPL after the World Cup when he signed for West Bromwich Albion. But the switch to the Hawthorns turned out to be anything but for the Australian international as he rarely featured for the Baggies all season.
He has now joined Championship strugglers Huddersfield Town. Its a step down in grade, but at least he is playing all the time and is a much better chance of developing his game with regular football.
Massimo Luongo has burst on to the Socceroo scene like a comet in the past 12 months.
When his then third tier club, League One Swindon Town, did not win promotion to the Championship last season it was inevitable that Luongo would leave. After all, he had won the player of the tournament award at the Asian Cup and was in demand from bigger clubs.
While the youngster was linked with teams in the Premier League and overseas, Luongo plumped for a move to the Championship to join Queens Park Rangers, the London team just relegated from the EPL.
Some saw that as a strange move given he might have gone to a higher level, but for Luongo it was the chance to play regularly with an ambitious team looking to bounce back to the top flight that was the clincher.
For Postecoglou it is far more useful to have a player like him appearing regularly in the hurly burly of The Championship, one of the most competitive leagues in the world, than sitting on the bench at a club like Aston Villa (with whom he was linked) and playing sporadically.
Tommy Oar, the Socceroo winger who has just signed a deal with another Championship side in Ipswich Town, is another example. He parted company with Utrecht, of the Dutch Eredivisie, and although he was linked with moves to Spain he has taken the chance to join a club where he might get the chance to play more regularly than he would in La Liga.
Admittedly its not always straightforward. And its sometimes hard to convince young men to turn down lucrative financial offers which could set them up for life in favour of a more measured approach which promises deferred, but potentially even greater, riches.
Its something Socceroo assistant coach Ante Milicic acknowledges. But, as he points out, there are major benefits, at least to a player’s international prospects.
“Every case is individual and there are also a lot of advisers and agents involved in the players personal decisions as to where they are going to play their club football.
“But definitely for us, when we look at the bigger picture, players that are playing consistently and playing at a decent level always gives you a better chance to play for the national team.
“It also means that when you come into camp you are fit and can back up and play two games in five or six days, you can handle the travel and it just gives you a better chance of selection when you have got the minutes in your legs.”