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The Roar



After more Grand Final heartbreak and key departures, where do Melbourne City go from here?

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Roar Guru
19th June, 2023

In a period of utter dominance Melbourne City have won the regular season competition three out of the past four seasons, as well as being the runners-up in three of the last four Grand Finals.

Outside of Sydney FC’s grip of the previous decade, the A-League has not had a club have such a stranglehold of major trophies like Melbourne City’s.

But all that could be about to change, after an incredible off-season that has so far seen eight players depart the club.

Five of the Grand Final starting XI that were humiliated 6-1 by the Mariners are gone (Thomas Lam, Tom Glover, Aiden O’Neill, Jordan Bos and Valon Berisha). A sixth member from that line-up – Marco Tilio – is likely to also follow out the exit door for Europe.

A further three players who were on the bench that fateful night in Richard van der Venne, Scott Jamieson and Matt Sutton have also left the club. It is staggering to think that nine out of the 18-man Grand Final squad will not be wearing City’s baby blue jersey next season.

Also released were the South Australian pair of Raphael Borges Rodrigues and Kerrin Stokes, who have been mainstays in the Victorian NPL side.

Large turnovers of squads are not uncommon each year in the A-League, but it is extremely rare to see a premiership-winning side torn apart.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)


While the other 11 clubs will be popping the champagne bottles in anticipation of new challengers for the title, the corking may be premature – as City is well positioned to undertake this rebuild.

City have arguably the best football director in the competition, in former Adelaide United football director Michael Petrillo.

Petrillo is heavily backed up by James Pool, who is the only full-time Australian-based scout and has a direct line of communication with the City Group’s managing director of global football, Brian Marwood.

City have the financial muscle to pull off a rebuild, but with the salary cap rules, players from their maligned academy setup will be required to make the step up.

Bos was the club’s first-ever true homegrown star player who recently transferred to Europe for a multi-million-dollar fee. In season 2023-24 we may soon see the next one in Emin Durakovic.

If not for a combination of injuries and concussion, Emin, who is the son of former Socceroo Mehmet Durakovic, would’ve debuted for Rado Vidosic’s side in 2023.


Emin is one of the most highly-regarded midfielders in his age group in the country and with how depleted City is in the middle of the park, should see regular action next season.

Emile Peios is another highly-touted midfield prospect who could get minutes as well – his ability to transition into attack, plus an eye for goal could prove useful.

Rampaging right-back Peter Antoniou may find himself in the squad more regularly, even at his tender age – Antoniou already has the ability to attack as well as defend down the right-hand side.

Sebastian Esposito and Harrison Shillington have been defensive lynchpins in the NPL team – with Shillington in particular highly thought of internally.

Even with this batch of talented youngsters, City will still need to recruit experienced players. A-League veterans Steven Ugarkovic and Jamie Young will come into the squad for next season.

The club also has announced their first new visa recruit, Udinese’s Tolgay Arslan, who has family in Australia and pulled out of negotiations with the Western Sydney Wanderers to sign for the premiers.

The connections they have with other clubs under the umbrella of the CFG should also see more interesting acquisitions from Europe to go with the already well-established forward line, spearheaded by Jamie Maclaren.


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City will still be expecting to play finals football next year, but there is a small opening for multiple other clubs to move ahead of them in the race for the championship.

The dynasty of the 2020s may be over, but City could start a new one with their talented academy and the resources of the CFG behind them.