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Forgotten Socceroo Massimo Luongo is back - and eyeing off a spot in the Premier League

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3rd October, 2023
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Arguably one of the most physically talented modern Socceroos, Massimo Luongo finally has things going his way at Ipswich Town in the EFL Championship.

Unbeaten in September, the second tier club has roared into second place on the ladder, just two points behind a rampant Leicester City.

With just one loss for the 2023/24 league season to this point in time and having established a six point buffer to fourth placed Sunderland, the Tractor Boys appear to be in serious contention for the English Championship, and certain to have eyes firmly placed on a spot in the Premier League come next season.

Massimo Luongo celebrates a goal.

Massimo Luongo celebrates after scoring the opener in the 2015 Asian Cup. (Photo by Nigel Owen/ActionPlus/Corbis via Getty Images)

Of course, should that occur, there will be an urgent need for squad replenishment, with recent times proving that the clubs earning spots to the big dance have a mighty hill to climb in terms of surviving for more than one or two seasons.

At the core of much of the excellence being produced at Ipswich early in the season has been the performances of forgotten Socceroo Luongo.

His match winning goal on the 24th of September against Blackburn Rovers was a sight for sore eyes; for those of us who have watched his career eagerly, believing firmly that he would be a long term option for the national team in the centre of the park.

That is the way things began for Luongo, a gifted junior player talked about openly in the Sydney private school competitions in which he starred as a player, whilst playing against boys far older and more physically developed than he.

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A director of football once relayed a story to me about a Year 9 student playing in the First XI competition and standing out as the most polished and complete player on the pitch by the length of the straight.

It looked like Australia had found its next midfield star and alongside the growing reputation of Aaron Mooy, the future in the engine room appeared assured.

Then, the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia came along and Luongo shone. He was the best in green and gold throughout the tournament, scoring a memorable goal, as well as another.

He also provided four assists, more than any other player, and was named the most valuable player of the tournament. The world appeared to be his oyster.

Massimo Luongo

Luongo hasn’t played for the Socceroos since the 2019 Asian Cup. (Photo by Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images)

Then, the man looming as a long term and influential Socceroo was left stranded on the bench during the 2018 World Cup in Russia by Bert van Marwijk; a temporary Dutch appointment who had little interest in doing anything to aid the future development of the Socceroos.

Van Marwijk was a fundamentally conservative man destined to stick with a defensive game plan and used little more than his core starting eleven throughout the tournament.

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Considering what Luongo had achieved in the Asian Cup, it was nothing less than a slap in the face and something I called out at the time.

Whilst there were plenty of positive performances at Queens Park Rangers in 145 matches from 2015-2019 and a few good ones in the 64 he played at Sheffield Wednesday during the COVID period, he became something of a lost footballer.

Called up for Australia’s disappointing campaign at the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates in 2019, Luongo was a little in and out of the team and far from the force he was in Australia four year earlier.

His time at Sheffield brought injury after injury and then a move to Middlesbrough, where his time ended abruptly without a senior appearance in the league.

Ipswich Town is beginning to look like a potential saviour to Luongo, now 31 and sadly for Australian fans, potentially heading towards a final professional contract.

Personally, I am so pleased for him. Finally fit, playing well and in a team capable of contending in its league. Should Ipswich manage to win its way through to the EFL playoffs or advance automatically, the Sydney-born star may well earn a few additional caps to the 43 he has already earned with the national team.

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The sight of Massimo Luongo back in national colours and playing in the Premier League next season would say a lot about the highs and lows of the football journeys undertaken by players right around the globe.

Sometimes, careers are defined by luck, often misfortune and every now and then by sheer bloody-mindedness from the powers at be. However in the case of Luongo, it has been a little of all three.

With a handful of years left on the big stage, it would be great to see Mass back and perhaps delivering on the potential we saw all those years ago.

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