Asia’s Rising Stars: Massimo Luongo
Words by Ahmed Yussuf
Name: Massimo Luongo
Club: Swindon Town
Position: Central midfield
From the depths of obscurity Massimo Luongo has risen. A practical nobody to even the most fanatical Socceroo fan no less than 18 months ago. Luongo has without a doubt left an indelible mark on supporters. In a period when the search for generation next has been so crucial, uncovering a talent of Luongo’s stature is the dawning of Ange Postecoglou’s era as head coach.
The former APIPA Leichhardt youngster left Australian shores at the tender age of 18. Swapping the life of a semi-professional footballer in his hometown of Sydney for the rigors of English football, as Luongo joined Premier League club Tottenham.
The former Tottenham youngster moved to Swindon after a loan spell in the summer of 2013 for a club record fee. Luongo didn’t disappoint in his first full season with the club, by playing a part in eleven goals throughout the season.
After a breakthrough season, Luongo’s first in senior professional football, the national team came calling. He was named in Australia’s 23-man squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A feat not to be sniffed at, when 12 months earlier Luongo was looked over for a place in Paul Okon’s squad for the under-20 World Cup. In the wake of the snub Australian scout David Margone hit back at the selection process, saying, “Take the example, Massimo [Luongo]. He’s good enough to play in the Socceroos midfield now…it’s a no brainer.” Fast-forward a year later, as predicted by Margone, Luongo would play for the Socceroos.
Despite not featuring at the World Cup, the experience was invaluable to Luongo who returned to his club side more confident than ever. The offers from clubs for the young man’s services didn’t go amiss, as before the season Swindon knocked back an offer from Championship side Rotherdam United. The season began in earnest and even though a move up a division wasn’t in his immediate future Luongo excelled in the new season. Matching his tally of goals and assists from the previous season before the New Year.
Before the Asian Cup on home soil, questions arose about the Australian national team setup with Postecoglou mixing and matching his selection before the showpiece. The preceding friendlies in 2014 saw the Socceroo boss select over 40 different players to test the playing pool in the wake of what was to be the most defining Asian Cup of Australia’s short history in the Asian confederation. A player who many had began to talk about in those friendlies and lead up games was Massimo Luongo. And with the waning powers of the creative force that is Mark Bresciano, the Swindon man’s performances grew in significance.
The Asian Cup was always going to be Luongo’s biggest test, his first taste of tournament football. It proved to be his arrival party to the rest of the Australian football public that were ignorant of his immense talent. Beginning the tournament as a maybe on Postecoglou’s line-up, to end it, as a certain starter was a feat not many could’ve predicted. The Socceroo boss himself admitted it was a pleasant surprise, saying he thought, “[Luongo] played a lot more in this tournament than I thought [he would] at the start of the month.”
It was some feat to catapult into the first team, dislodging veterans like Bresciano. It’s quite another to end the tournament contributing to the most goals and being named the player of the Asian Cup.
The moment of the tournament that solidified Luongo as a player that could potentially don the Socceroos’ Green and Gold for years to come was his opening goal in the Asian Cup final. The Swindon man found the wherewithal to turn his marker with a few wiggles of the hips and a faint drop of the shoulder. Not to mention the rasping shot that followed to put Socceroos on the front foot.
The Socceroo showed how dynamic a player he can be throughout the tournament, whether that be moving out wide on occasion to create or going box to box to finishing off moves. Luongo now is a permanent fixture in the Socceroo midfield, complimenting captain Mile Jedinak and Melbourne Victory stalwart Mark Milligan ever so well.
Swindon Town football expert Sam Morshead describes Luongo:
“Luongo is the finest footballer to have pulled on Swindon red in the 21st century. In this writer’s opinion, there can be no doubt about that.
In Luongo, Town possess a midfield player who has energy, dynamism, trickery with ball at feet and an uncanny ability to breach an opposition defence with subtlety. A shimmy of the hips, a scything pass, delaying a through ball with acute timing – how this man is playing League One football is a question the greatest philosophical minds could only temper with Alka Seltzer.”
The Swindon midfielder may not have been the most fancied player going into the Asian Cup but ends the competition as one of Asian football’s rising stars. One of the players to point to for Postecoglou’s regeneration project, and despite all the accolades the youngster is focused on the task ahead. Speaking after the final, Luongo was clear his attention now moves to Swindon and the clubs promotion push, putting to bed any speculative moves away.
The next step for Luongo isn’t for certain but if the Socceroos’ current trajectory is to anything go by he won’t only be fending off offers from the Championship.
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