Marco Bresciano, up there with the most technically gifted Australians to pull on a Socceroos jersey, has recently announced his international retirement, less than a month after winning the Asian Cup.
The fact that the 35-year-old was one of only two players from the Socceroos’ ‘golden generation’ that survived the Ange Postecoglou cull indicates just how talented he was, and how his presence was such an integral factor in the team’s revolution.
It would have been fitting to see Bresciano given one last hurrah, the fixture against Germany in Kaiserslautern next month a more than fitting location. After all, that was where the golden generation proved themselves on the world stage, first in a battling victory over Japan before a heartbreaking but inspired loss to Italy.
Yet Bresciano has chosen to end on the high from winning the Asian Cup, where he started one match and made two appearances off the bench.
Coupled with international retirement, Bresciano’s contract with Qatari club Al-Gharafa expires at the end of this season, after which he’ll contemplate his future. The possibility of coming to the A-League has surfaced, with the player seemingly split into two mind frames.
“To come back and play in Australia, I would love to, honestly, but it’s not something I’m really hanging to do,” Bresciano said.
“I wouldn’t come back to just get on the pitch and play and finish my career in the A-League. I would want to come back and still be able to perform. It’s going to come down more to how I’m feeling physically and mentally.”
The midfielder also recently told Fox Sports that he had ruled out a return, however.
Even at 35, Bresciano likely still has a few years of football left in him. While it’s the right time to quit the international stage, especially given the emergence of successors, club football is still very much a reality.
The hysteria which surrounds players when they creep towards 40 is usually misguided, with many stars showing that through careful preparation and meticulous fitness regimes a career can extend long past the mid-30s. Think of Javier Zanetti, Stanley Matthews, Paolo Maldini and Kazuyoshi Miura.
Yet while many would doubtless like to see Bresciano come to Australia, though not as many demanding the arrival of Tim Cahill, it would be a move full of risks. Bresciano could likely find a role with an A-League club, and excel, but the history of former Socceroos returning home doesn’t bode well, unfortunately.
John Aloisi, Brett Emerton and Harry Kewell are the more high-profile former international heroes who received a less than deserved and unceremonious departure from the game. Each of them failed to achieve personal glory, with expectations high and scrutiny ruthless.
Bresciano deserves better than to put up with the potential vitriol from Australian fans, who could dish out similar treatment that his former teammates experienced.
For while it’s been easier for returning Socceroos that play more defence-minded roles to transition back into the A-League, for those who spent their careers in the final third it’s always been a bit of a struggle. It would be unfitting for Bresciano’s career to be tarnished with a less than exemplary showing in Australia.
The criticism directed at him during the Asian Cup, such as the sighs that were released when fans saw his name on the teamsheet against China, was completely unjustified. It also suggests that Bresciano would get a tough run impressing the detractors during a future spell in the A-League.
Too many have fallen into the lazily held view that Bresciano was completely past it. Too many failed to use their eyes when assessing his performances, instead bleating out tired lines on social media that he just wasn’t good enough, and too slow for Postecoglou’s new game plan.
Bresciano actually had a stellar game against China, despite a rusty opening five minutes. His set piece deliveries were spot on, and while his legs didn’t allow him to press as much as fans would’ve liked, he still made more crucial plays (defensively and offensively) than both Mile Jedinak and Massimo Luongo during his time on the pitch.
That was from my own assessment made during the game, though a lot of people appreciate the use of statistics to back up opinion. So if we look at the stats, pulled from the FFA website, we find a similar story.
Bresciano had a pass completion of 88 per cent against China, which was considerably more than Luongo, who had just 81 per cent. Jedinak also completed 88 per cent of his passes, but most of them were from his own half, under less pressure. Loungo and Bresciano played as twin eights, making their passes a lot more risky than Jedinak’s.
Bresciano completed three key passes, compared with Jedinak’s zero and Luongo’s one, while he also made four recoveries, equal with Jedinak and just one less than Luongo. For a 35-year-old, that’s not half bad, and nowhere near as apocalyptic as social media keyboard warriors were suggesting.
Those stats also don’t count Bresciano’s two set piece deliveries, which gave both Jedinak and Sainsbury decent opportunities at goal, which unfortunately both resulted in wayward headers.
There’s no doubt this is the right time for Bresciano to retire, but the calls that he was no longer of use for the Socceroos went a bit too far.
The truth is that Bresciano’s continued presence in the Socceroos set-up has helped Postecoglou bring through the next generation of stars, with Luongo front of the pack. And for me, his last appearance was a solid and committed send-off.
But even when putting in a decent performance, too many were quick to denounce his influence. If he receives the same amount of scrutiny during a stint in the A-League then he’d be best served taking his talents elsewhere, perhaps back to the lower levels of Italy, where they will appreciate his technical abilities.
Bresciano deserves his place as a Socceroos legend, let’s preserve that reputation. It would be a shame to see him share a similar fate with Aloisi, Kewell and Emerton.
There is so much to remember of his career so far, which has spanned two decades and included more than 80 international caps, three World Cups and two Asian Cups. He is easily the best ball-player to represent the Socceroos in my lifetime.
Bresciano’s ability to trap a ball dead and in the same moment let off a vicious drive at goal or slip through a pin-point pass will never be forgotten. Neither will his goals, which included bicycle kicks, cheeky flicks, set pieces and well timed tap-ins.
The volleys, however, will especially be fondly remembered. Those efforts where he was airborne as he met the ball could not be described as anything less than special. There are not a lot of players in the world that can hit a ball so sweetly while defying the laws of gravity.
And then there was his all-important goal against Uruguay. And that celebration, that ice cold celebration. Bresciano was doing the Mario Balotelli before the Italian was even out of school. That’s a memory that will stick with Socceroos fans for the rest of their lives.
Similarly, his opener against Jordan in 2013, in the penultimate World Cup qualifying match, came at a time when the Socceroos were in danger of missing out on a trip to Brazil. It was Bresciano’s perfectly timed run, complementing a fantastic Robbie Kruse build-up, that settled the nerves.
No one can take away Bresciano’s career, and so it would be unfitting to see it tarnished, even if just slightly, due to an unsuccessful stint in Australia. I would love to see him on home soil again, and feel he would be a success in the right environment. But history doesn’t provide much hope, and I’d prefer Bresc to forever remain in our memories for the right reasons. He deserves no less.