Three A-League clubs have entered quarantine in Qatar before the resumption of the Asian Champions League on Wednesday.
I did a double take when I saw Alexander Baumjohann being unveiled as Sydney FC’s new signing in front of the city’s famous Opera House this week.
I’d assumed that the talented midfielder would be on his way back to Europe or heading on to the mega pay cheques of China after the Wanderers chose not to renew his contract at the end of the A-League season.
Apparently he had cancelled the lease on his apartment and was getting ready to move on. Instead, he has now signed on with Sydney for two years and we can consider ourselves lucky that he’s decided to hang around.
For Sydney FC, his signing makes good sense. Not only has he had one season to acclimatise to Australia and the A-League, he fills a huge hole for them in the midfield after the departure of skipper Alex Brosque.
His creative passing into a forward line consisting of Adam Le Fondre and Kosta Barbarouses is something to look forward to for Sky Blues fans this season.
There’s also the added bonus that his signing will presumably annoy the hell out of Sydney’s cross-town rivals, the Wanderers.
Why he was let go by Western Sydney was unclear. From the outside, it didn’t make a lot of sense. Without setting the competition alight, Baumjohann was creative on the ball and set up plenty of scoring opportunities for Western Sydney last season. He also scored three goals himself.
Standing beside Steve Corica on Tuesday, Baumjohann was asked about a possible falling out with Wanderers coach Markus Babbel, but he avoided the journalist’s tackle skilfully.
“I’m here now playing for Sydney FC, I’m not looking back, I’m just looking to the future,” he said.
Baumjohann’s recruitment by Sydney is a win for the A-League, too. The former Bayern Munich man has played in Europe’s biggest competitions and he wasn’t just making up the numbers there either.
In a period when a glut of young, talented midfielders and attackers took Germany all the way to a World Cup victory, Baumjohann only just missed out on higher honours. After all, failing to keep pace with Thomas Müller and Mario Götze in their prime is not a crime.
If he had arrived into the Bundesliga five years earlier or later, he could well have been selected a number of times for Die Mannschaft. Instead, the 32-year-old is now plying his trade in Australia, earning considerably less but with a lifestyle that takes some beating.
It does remind me a little of the story of Thomas Broich, another German who could have made it back home, but instead headed Down Under and positively influenced the A-League for many years with his energy and honesty.
If Baumjohann can match even half of Broich’s legacy, he’ll become a competition favourite for years to come.