Kewell departure is a blow to the A-League
Harry Kewell can't believe it either (AAP Image/Joe Castro)
The Harry Kewell era at Melbourne Victory is over, just like that. The Socceroos star is set to return to England to be with his wife Sheree, whose mother is gravely ill.
Kewell leaves the A-League with a record of eight goals in 25 games and a legacy of unanswered questions.
Only seven other players scored more A-League goals last season than the man who has played more than 50 times for his country, yet Kewell’s performances for the Victory were relentlessly scrutinised.
For many critics, his signing was a waste of money.
Ironically, Kewell is likely to attract plenty of suitors in England’s north-west, either at Championship level or perhaps even the Premiership.
It seems his stellar eight-year run at Leeds United – where he starred alongside a certain Mark Viduka – is as remembered in England as the injury-riddled spell at Liverpool which saw so many pundits cast doubts on his commitment and durability.
That’s not surprising given that on the days he wreaked havoc for Leeds, Kewell was clearly one of the best players in the world.
It seems a long time ago now, because he was surely one of the most underappreciated talents to have ever graced the A-League.
Maybe it was his on-again, off-again transfer to the Victory which put him offside with fans from the outset.
Or the fact that a player born and bred in Sydney so publicly snubbed his home town.
Or maybe it was just that classic Australian snobbery – tall poppy syndrome – which saw a number of A-League fans rubbish Kewell’s contribution to the league before he’d even laced up a Victory boot.
Because just like in England and later in Turkey, Kewell was, on his day, a very handy A-League player indeed.
It took him a while to get started, with supporters forced to wait until a Round 8 spot-kick against Gold Coast United for Kewell to open his account.
He freely admitted the standard and speed of the competition originally caught him off guard.
And frequently Kewell was on a different wavelength to the rest of his team-mates.
But despite Victory failing to make the finals last season, Kewell showed enough to suggest he could be a force with a campaign of A-League football under his belt.
Sadly, Australian fans are left to ponder if arguably the most talented player this country has ever produced could have made more of a mark on its fledgling domestic competition.
And the legend of Kewell is further obscured.
He should be remembered as the player whose historic goal against Croatia at the 2006 World Cup fired the Socceroos to their first – and so far only – second round appearance.
Yet his name, rightly or wrongly, has become just as synonymous with unfulfilled promise.
And while A-League clubs need high quality recruits to lift the standard of competition across the board, often when they’ve arrived – think Juninho, John Aloisi, Marcos Flores, Carlos Hernandez etcetera – they’ve been underutilised, underappreciated or simply allowed to leave.
This time it’s Kewell who has pulled the plug on his A-League career and no one can begrudge him his personal reasons for doing so.
But his departure is a blow to the competition, even if some Victory fans have been quick to dish out a terse good riddance.
It’s not every day a player of Kewell’s quality arrives down under and his rapid departure may make similar calibre players think twice about making the long journey to Australia.
It was hardly an unqualified success, but such is the enigma that is Kewell, one can hardly argue his move to Melbourne Victory was a total failure either.
In fact, it’s hard to know what to make of Kewell’s brief Victory sojourn – much like the last ten years of his career, it could be said.
Farewell, Harry Kewell. The A-League hardly knew thee.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman