News broke earlier this week that Melbourne City had planned a press conference to discuss an announcement.
Was it a new signing? A player retiring or one going on a European adventure?
The inside word was it had to do with goal machine Jamie Maclaren. It was a move that left rival fans shaking their heads in disbelief and Melbourne City fans in sheer ecstasy.
It was announced that Maclaren had extended his contract for a further two years with no buyout clause and City with the money behind them were able to resist offers from other clubs.
“You always have that one club in your career where it just feels like home. Melbourne City is that place for me – both on and off the pitch,” Maclaren said.
“This group is special and we’re building something unique. When people think of Melbourne City, we want our fans to see our strong culture, enjoy our style of attacking football and to celebrate with us when we win trophies. We work hard every day to achieve this.”
Maclaren’s name had been forwarded to me as a teen by a colleague in Melbourne many years ago as player with great potential.
He was playing with boys much older than himself in a Green Gully team that was scoring goals for fun while on a 40-game winning streak.
I had compared him to a cobra at that stage of his development, in that he was quite placid and calm on the pitch, but as he starts to make a run it sounds like a gentle hiss of the famous snake and if a defender gets too close, he’ll arch up and strike without warning.
After a couple of successful seasons individually with Perth and Brisbane in the A-League, Maclaren finally made the move to Europe that many people knew he was capable of. Unfortunately his dream turned into a nightmare.
In 2017 he moved to SV Darmstadt 98 in the Bundesliga 2 under the false pretence that he was going to be part of Darmstadt coach Torsten Frings’ dual-striker system.
But when the season started, Darmstadt only played one man up front. Maclaren spent most of his time warming the bench and when he was called up off it, it was not in his preferred central striker position.
The club found itself in a relegation dog fight and Frings was sacked before Christmas and replaced by Dirk Schuster.
Unable to break into the starting XI with the new coach, Maclaren was able to force a loan move to another European club: Hibernian, who play in the same city his father was born.
He averaged a respectable goal every three games in the Scottish Premiership but his time was cut short once again due to not being able to break into the first team regularly enough.
Maclaren came back to his to his home town, Melbourne, on a seven-figure contract and has been in scintillating form ever since.
He is still only 27 years old and the late 20s are classed as the peak years of a striker’s life, before the slow decline of goal-scoring powers begins at 30.
Maclaren is definitely good enough to play overseas. He has unfinished business. Scotland or England would be perfect given his similarities to UK-type strikers.
By the end of his contract, he will be 30 years old and the likelihood of a big European move will have faded away.
Maclaren is a quiet and unassuming family man away from the pitch and financially he won’t have any issues due to his monster A-League contract.
Next season he will form the centrepiece of the greatest ever attacking trident in the A-League’s history, joining fellow Melburnians Matthew Leckie and Andrew Nabbout in a side that looks like it was pulled straight from a video game.
Maclaren has nothing left to prove in Australia. He is at the top of his game, scoring goals in a team that looks like it will dominate the competition for the next few seasons.
When his career is over, the lingering question will still remain: why didn’t Maclaren make one last sojourn to European shores before finishing his career in the A-League?