There's a new young candidate to fill Mark Bresciano's boots for Australia, and Cronan Yu says his name isn't Tom Rogic...
The 60-second story
- Full name: Massimo Corey Luongo
- Date of birth: September 25,1992
- Place of birth: Sydney, Australia
- Height: 5ft 9 1⁄2in
- Position: Central midfield
- Current club: Swindon Town (72 apps, 10 goals)
- International: Australia (11 caps, 2 goals)
Massimo Luongo’s road to virtual superstardom among Australian supporters has, in truth, been a tough grind. But now, after winning the Asian Cup Player of the Tournament award as well as scoring a decisive goal in the final, his hard-working nature is finally reaping rewards.
Born in Sydney in 1992, Luongo was a Waverley College alumni and former APIA Leichhardt Tigers and Sydney Olympic youth player in the NSW National Premier Leagues men's competition. After rising through the ranks in Australia, the 22-year-old was offered a trial at Tottenham Hotspur, where he impressed club officials and was subsequently rewarded with a contract.
“I had offers to play at youth level for some of the A-League teams, but my coach told me to continue playing at state level at higher groups. When I was 17, I my coach got me a trial at Spurs,” Luongo recalls.
His first taste of top-tier English football came when then-coach Harry Redknapp threw him on in a League Cup match against Stoke, replacing Sandro in the 70th minute. Despite impressing and receiving plaudits from Redknapp and Tony Pulis, his debut for the first team effectively ended in disaster when he missed the side’s eighth penalty in the shootout. Sadly, that sealed his fate at the club.
In 2012, he was loaned out to Ipswich but his spell in Suffolk was cut short when when manager Chris Hutchings was relieved of his duties. New boss Mick McCarthy, upon his appointment to the side, commented that he wanted a “different type of player” and Luongo subsequently signed on loan for Swindon.
It was here that he managed to settle, though things weren't straightforward at first. Despite his quality and exceptional grasp of the basics, he failed to make an impact at the County Ground in the opening few fixtures.
Furthermore, his two loan spells at the club saw brilliant performances one week juxtaposed by patchy displays the next. When in form he was tough to handle; when he wasn’t, he cut a frustrated figure. But the club saw enough to hand him a three-year deal in August 2013, paying around £400,000.
Things are different nowadays. After receiving a call-up for the Socceroos at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, an experience which he described as ‘intense’ given the desire of his compatriots to cement starting berths against Chile, Netherlands and Spain, Luongo insists it has made him a better player.
Why you need to know him
His impressive form at Swindon this season has seen him score three goals and bag five assists in 21 League One appearances, but it's arguably his Asian Cup form which has seen him make the headlines. The youngster featured in every match of Asia’s premier competition as a central midfielder, and adequately deputised for Mark Bresciano.
His general creativity down the flank, plus his ability to telepathically link with Matt Leckie down the right flank, Tim Cahill up front and play decisive passes which cut through opposition defences, was a joy to watch.
That's not to mention his four assists and decisive opener to turn the match in the Socceroos' favour in the final against South Korea as the host nation won an inaugural Asian Cup crown.
Most impressively, Luongo is slowly but surely ironing out his weaknesses, and now bearing the fruits of hard work.
Often impressive performances at international tournaments lead to bigger things. And it seems Luongo might be on the move soon, with the likes of Sevilla and other English clubs reportedly circling.
It’s Luongo’s ability on the ball that makes him such an attractive player to watch. As a highly technical player who is fleet of foot and has a good burst of speed, the midfielder is a threat to defences and can play around tight backlines with his nifty footwork.
Even more startling, though, is his precision with his passing and impressive vision. He prefers to operate on the right side of a midfield triangle, with his willingness to track back and do his bit defensively helping to make him an all-round useful player to have around.
Despite his constant improvement, inconsistency means he can cut a peripheral figure when teams need him. In addition, Luongo is guilty of overplaying at times and has the tendency to be rushed in possession.
His young age also gives rise to problems with fitness, and he is prone to fatigue and burnout. However, at 22 years of age, the positives outweigh the negatives and this is a player who has been working on correcting his faults.
When Swindon manager Mark Cooper was asked about Luongo’s potential, he remarked: “They [opposition managers] all say he’s way too good for this level by far, and they’re right.”
Swindon might be trying their best to hold on to their prized possession, but it appears only a matter of time before they receive an offer that's too good to refuse.
Did you know?
Luongo is only the third player in Swindon's history to represent an international side after Jan Aage Fjortoft (Norway) and Alan McLoughlin (Republic of Ireland).
What happens next?
Luongo’s excellent performances throughout this season, as well as at the Asian Cup, have seen a number of suitors chase him. Nevertheless, it seems the player's current ambition is to remain at Swindon and help the side that gave him his chance gain promotion to the Championship. Should they fail to rise from League One, though, the Robins may well have trouble keeping hold of him.