While most of the pre-season attention has been on a pair of big name returning Socceroos, in Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton, less heralded in the mainstream was the return of another 2010 World Cup representative, Dario Vidosic.
After four seasons in Germany, where his career never quite took off at FC Nuremberg and a couple of other clubs he was loaned out to, Vidosic returned home in the off-season, aged only 24, keen to re-ignite his club and national team career.
For a player, nothing quite stacks up to the feeling of playing regularly, a challenge the likes of Mathew Leckie and Matt McKay currently have to deal with.
For Vidosic, there’s little doubt the motivation was to get back home, have a few good seasons, and see where that eventually leads him.
Perhaps even seeing the career of his former Roar teammate McKay take off over the past year or so, for both club and country, at the age of 28, has provided Vidosic with the confidence to come home and work on his game over the next couple of seasons. He has time.
On Friday night, in what I thought was a high quality affair at a packed Hindmarsh Stadium, Vidosic gave Adelaide United and A-League fans a taste of what we might expect throughout the season, turning on a man of the match display to steal the show from Kewell.
Indeed, it was rather ironic that Vidosic, who started his career at the Roar in a wide area, played an influential role in the hole behind Sergio van Dijk, while Kewell, who Mehmet Durakovic admitted would be playing behind the strikers when he was signed, was often left isolated up front, in the number nine role.
The move by Durakovic, no doubt designed to accommodate the returning Carlos Hernandez, back-fired, with Kewell becoming an increasingly peripheral figure as the pumped-up Reds controlled most of the match with their up-tempo pressing style.
Vidosic, a modern day attacker, blessed with great mobility and a very strong work-rate, was a key influencer in this space.
Indeed, while much was made of the Fabio error in the lead up to the only goal of the game, look closely at the highlights and you’ll see it was Vidosic closing down the Brazilian, forcing him to rush his distribution.
It’s the type of detail that will please not only Rini Coolen, but Holger Osieck, who has taken to the pressing work of Alex Brosque at national team level, a trait he showcased in his time in the A-League.
While Vidosic’s defensive work was a feature of the week two blockbuster, it was also his movement, set piece work and subtle work on the ball that caught the eye.
Finding space in and around twin holders Grant Brebner and Leigh Broxham, and drifting into wider areas when the space opened up, Vidosic’s combination with his front third team-mates van Dijk, Andy Slory and Zenon Caravella was always in-touch.
Indeed, there was seamlessness about the way he slotted into the 11 after missing Adelaide’s opener in Perth. No doubt this understanding was honed in the off-season, a luxury neither Emerton nor Kewell had after signing late for their respective clubs.
While Vidosic spent most of his formative years, for club and country, playing out wide, it seems Coolen is determined to use him centrally, as a replacement for the wonderful Marcos Flores.
Like Flores you can expect to see him not only occupying the central corridor, but using the flanks when the likes if Caravella and Slory drift infield.
Whether Vidosic can be as influential a creator and finisher as Flores remains to be seen, but on the evidence of his first display, where he managed nine shots and a couple of finals balls, he’ll go mighty close.
After upstaging Kewell last week, he gets his chance to match-up against Emerton on Saturday, and there’s no doubt he’s determined to put on a show.
Speaking after Friday’s win, Vidosic stopped short of throwing down the gauntlet to Kewell and Emerton, but emitted a steely tone of determination.
He is here to get the business done and make a statement or two of his own.