Life after Aaron Mooy represents dangerous times ahead for Melbourne City FC. Despite the attacking style of football played last season and smashing goal-scoring records, the club failed to make any real impact into the overcrowded Melbourne sporting market.
Failing to attract financially sustainable crowds has been a problem that has hampered the club during its entire six-year history. Despite being owned by some of the richest men in football, City Football Group isn’t prepared to throw money anything that resembles a poor investment.
In many aspects the club has learnt the hard way about dealing with the restrictive nature of belonging to such a competition as the A-League and that dealing with the FFA is unlike any league in the world. The control the FFA wields over clubs in the league makes it a very unattractive prospect for owners to take calculated risks.
Last season City managed to average just over 11,000 patrons to home games, less than half of what rivals Victory attract thru the turnstiles. When you consider City had two derbies and a home final within those figures, you begin to see a clearer picture of how Victory dwarfs their cross town rivals. Crowds have never been a strong point of City and you start to wonder how the current administration can turn this around.
The picture is even fuzzier when you look at who will remain from the 2014-15 squad. Already the club has lost captain Patrick Kisnorbo to retirement and could be without golden boot Bruno Fornaroli if the two parties cannot find common ground in contract negations. Although Fornaroli is contracted for one more season, you cannot see him being at the club under his current arrangement.
Another who has one year remaining is Frenchman Harry Novillo who has indicated he may not be back in Melbourne next season. Homesickness is being thrown around but Novillo had two suspensions (one club imposed) at key times during the season and at various times looked uninterested.
While those are potentially key losses, they pale into insignificance when comparing them to Socceroos star Aaron Mooy. Unlike the other football codes in Australia, playing domestically is nowhere near the pinnacle of the sport.
Mooy has already dipped his toe in European waters but found the temperature lukewarm. A return to Australia has lifted the stocks of the attacking midfielder dramatically and dominating the A-League has Mooy looking towards a second stint in Europe and the biggest move in his club career.
For the club to lose a star of the Socceroos team at this point in time will be a vital blow to the club.
No City fan can begrudge Mooy of his dream of moving to Europe and City shouldn’t stand in the way of any such decision, but this will hurt the club more than any other individual.
City has come out and stated they’re not prepared to spend money on a true football superstar, costing the millions of dollars in which you cannot see the club recuperate. While a global superstar could create a surge in attendances it would be seen as throwing good money after bad.
City Football Group didn’t make their fortune by setting poor financial precedents and another David Villa would only have negative effects on the club overall. Short term it could be a benefit for the club, but what would it really achieve long term while trying to build a club culture?
Once again the season ahead for Melbourne City represents one of the most important in club history, and although it seems this has been the case for the preceding six seasons, 2016-17 will prove the litmus test for how those running the club actually see the side going forward.
With another mass exodus of players an aggressive scouting campaign will be required once again to not only attract new and existing fans through the gates at AAMI Park but keep them coming. John Van’t Schip has somehow seemingly survived another 12 months of underachievement and has been handed the opportunity to be the architect of yet another squad rebuild for what could be one last shot at A-League glory.
Over the next few months, it is inevitable Aaron Mooy will be leaving the club but given the potential career the talented Socceroo has ahead of him a move overseas can only be encouraged. It will be who City decide to bring in that will prove more important to the future of the A-League and will give fans and other interested parties a clearer indication of what City Football Group are trying to achieve in Australia.
City fans will be hoping for more pearls of scouting wisdom like Fornaroli and less own goals like the Stefan Mauk/Osama Malik trade.