Tom Rogic and Mat Ryan are two of Central Coast Mariners’ most exciting young products, but that’s about where the similarities end, and is why he is on trial with one of England’s biggest clubs and why the other elected to stay at home in Gosford rather than head to Barcelona with the true giants of world football.
Crazy as it sounds, Rogic’s refusal to head to Spain in August while his teammate trains at Tottenham might just be the right move for him.
The opportunity to train with the best in the world at Barcelona is not a chance to be dismissed lightly but with his personal manager insisting the decision belonged to Rogic shows his focus is on another goal.
The opportunity to train alongside the likes of Andreas Iniesta, Xavi Alonso and Lionel Messi must have been almost impossible to knock back, but Rogic has put his A-League future ahead of a personal prize.
It shows he is serious about proving himself at home before heading overseas and that’s hardly a bad thing.
No one doubted Rogic’s ability when he burst on to the scene in season 2011/12, but there were doubts about his fitness and ability to see out back-to-back games. A full pre-season might just be what counts the most for the youngster aiming to improve his strength.
In a statement delivered to SBS, Rogic’s manager said the goal for Rogic was to make his claim for a Qantas Socceroos berth as soon as possible:
“As The Chance winner previously Tom is already on Nike billboards and posters in many places and to go over a meet Pep Guardiola and Gerard Pique, and be on stage in Barcelona making a speech to some of the younger boys coming through the program doesn’t make you a great player,” he said.
“Obviously training with Barcelona would have been a different story, and that is something I was organising through my contacts there, but that would have required a 10-day time frame.
“For Tom now, he needs a big-pre-season because he has never had one before and he needs to get into the Socceroos very quickly. The decision was his not to go.”
That last paragraph tells you how much Rogic wants a national team spot and, despite his obvious talent, the best way to earn that is still by playing more football; the way to get that - impress your club coach, then impress the national coach, by taking the A-League by storm. His decision to stay is the right one.
And it’s for the opposite reason that Mat Ryan has made the right decision to skip pre-season training and travel to London to trial with Tottenham Hotspur.
Spurs can offer Ryan the priceless opportunity to fast-track his development in a way the Mariners can’t match.
Before he left Gosford, even Mustafa Amini felt Ryan wouldn’t stay in the A-League for much longer.
“I think he (Ryan) will be gone soon. He has had two years in the A-League and both years he has done extremely well and won the NAB Young Player, Under 20 Player, best keeper in the league and Mariners Medal. If he goes overseas I just hope he finds the right fit,” Amini said.
That fit could well be at White Hart Lane.
Training with Mariners goalkeeping coach John Crawley is one thing, but learning from two keepers like Brad Friedel and Carlo Cudicini, who have a combined 31 years of experience at the top level, is invaluable.
Cudicini represented Chelsea at his peak and Friedel has been one of the EPL’s most consistent keepers over the years and a penalty-saving machine at his peak.
If Ryan were to secure some sort of deal at Spurs he would likely spend plenty of time warming the bench, but as he pointed out in an interview, Friedel (41) and Cudicini (38) are both close to the end of their respective careers, so not only could he learn from them but also potentially secure himself a future at the elite level.
And unlike Rogic, Ryan has no need to impress current Qantas Socceroos coach Holger Osieck.
Our goalkeeper stocks are rich and full and with no retirement in sight for Schwarzer, the No.1 jersey isn’t up for grabs yet; even if it was, Adam Federici and Mitch Langerak appear to have a mortgage on the next shot at it, and Nathan Coe is probably ahead of Ryan as well.
But a move to England could change all that. If he is offered a deal Ryan won’t risk plateauing in the A-League when he could instead be get to challenge the best opposition the world has to offer.
Both roads are right for both players - are they necessarily what their individual fans want to see? Probably not, but both young men seem to be heading in the same direction, even if they are travelling down different paths.