Surely a little bit of a concern, isn’t it, that Pim Verbeek seems happy to allow Lucas Neill the luxury of not playing for a club between now and the beginning of next year?
This was his comment on the announcement of the Socceroos squad for the September 5 friendly against Korea Republic in Seoul: “’I will start to get worried when he is not playing his games in April and May. Then we have a problem. The situation is a little bit special. I am waiting like everyone else until he knows his final decision. He’s waiting for the right club to sign the right deal. People don’t know his motivations. They don’t know what he is thinking about.”
No, you’re right, Pimbo, we don’t know what he is thinking about, and can only speculate. But we’ve been assured it isn’t about money.
Said Neill’s agent Paddy Dominguez midweek: “He’s already declined some extremely lucrative contracts, so if he was financially motivated, he would have accepted one of those.”
Phew. And people were calling him greedy.
Money hungry or not, it still doesn’t change the fact Neill’s not doing anyone a favour except our opposition in South Africa sitting on the sidelines not playing when other teams are deep into their forward planning for the World Cup.
If anyone suggests otherwise, then why play friendlies at all?
All these experimental line-ups Verbeek is using might come to nought if they aren’t tested in combination, regularly, with our likely World Cup captain. And I don’t think there’s any question Neill is going to be in South Africa. So when’s the penny going to drop? Something has to give.
Personally I think Verbeek has given Neill way too much rope. Just like he did with Viduka (whom he has reportedly spoken to since June).
The soap operas of both players have been an unnecessary even damaging distraction and there is a good case to be made that Verbeek has erred by allowing both to carry on as long as they have.
Equally, though, we have to give Verbeek some credit and assume he is making decisions in line with what he sees as the best interests of the team.
One thing Verbeek is not is a fool. He’s very loyal to his players and is intolerant of criticism of them or his management of team issues. I’ve felt myself his wrath after some things I wrote about Nicky Carle and Richard Porta. We don’t meet for coffees any more.
But the guy is not infallible, and certainly in the case of Lucas Neill comments such as “I will start to get worried when he is not playing his games in April and May” really do give rise to questions of where loyalty ends and lack of objectivity begins.
No Socceroo should be allowed to think he can walk into the team any time he likes. It appears, however, that Neill could well take away that impression.