Victorious Adelaide United coach Josep Gombau paid rich tribute to match-winner Sergio Cirio, as a footballer and as a person, after the Spanish superstar steered the Reds to an historic, title-clinching 1-0 win over Perth Glory in Tuesday's Westfield FFA Cup final at Coopers Stadium.
Cirio's consistently sharp skills and movement from his right wing vexed the visitors' defenders all evening, while his superb 67th-minute goal proved the difference.
Often touted as the A-League's premier import, Cirio scored in all five of United's Cup fixtures, finishing with a competition-best six goals in five games and was a deserved recipient of the inaugural Mark Viduka Medal as the final's best player.
"I've known him for a long time," Gombau said of his fellow Catalonian.
"I tried to sign him at my last club and bring him to Kitchee in Hong Kong, but I couldn't.
"He's always been a player I've liked because he can play in different positions. And as a person - he's an excellent person."
Adelaide generally bossed the contest despite Perth's gallantry and resolve in defence.
The Glory were reduced to 10 men after Josh Risdon was sent off in the 58th minute for tugging Marcelo Carrusca's shirt, the young right back's second booking of the night for an infringement on Carrusca.
This made the Reds' job easier and Cirio pounced accordingly with a fine goal, but Adelaide's path to the final was anything but a breeze, having to navigate past a quality field of Wellington Phoenix, Western Sydney Wanderers, Brisbane Roar, Sydney FC and the Central Coast Mariners.
"We played against five A-League sides and won every single game," Gombau said proudly.
"I think we deserved it (Cup).
"Perth is a very good squad and had a good game.
"They are on top of the A-League and don't allow you to relax for a second.
"To win the first FFA cup is very important."
Cirio agreed with his coach's sentiments.
"This is the most important trophy I've won in my own career," he said.
"I'm very happy because we got it in front of our supporters.
"As the coach said, we deserved this trophy because we played against (all) A-League teams."
Gombau is a fan of the 32-team, FFA Cup knockout concept and believes its prestige will only advance in future tournaments in line with the growth he has noticed in the sport in Australia.
"The first year is like a trial," he said.
"Next season for sure the clubs will take this very seriously.
"It's a big trophy because it's not just involving the A-League teams, but the leagues from every single state.
"We got more people (in the FFA Cup final) than in a league game.
"For sure it's growing, not just the Cup, (but) football in Australia is growing a lot."comments