Meet the Asian Cup MVP who could be Australia's next midfield superstar
60 Second Story
- Full name: Massimo Corey Luongo
- Date of birth: September 25,1992
- Place of birth: Sydney, Australia
- Height: 5ft 9 1⁄2in
- Current Club: Swindon Town (72 apps, 10 goals)
- International: Australia (11 caps, 2 goals)
Massimo Loungo’s road to virtual superstardom amongst 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 mens competition. After rising through the ranks in Australia, the 22-year-old was offered a trial at Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, where he impressed club officials and was subsequently rewarded with a contract at the club.
“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 when then coach Harry Redknapp threw him on in a League Cup match against Stoke City, 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 shoot-out. Sadly, that sealed his fate at the club.
In 2012, he was loaned out to Ipswich Town but his spell at the club was prematurely cut short when when manager Chris Hutchings was relieved of his duties. New manager 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 Town.
It was here that he managed to settle, though things weren't so straightforward at first. Despite his quality and exceptional grasp of the basics, he failed to make an impact at Swindon in the opening few fixtures. Furthermore, his two loan spells at the club saw brilliant performances one week juxtaposed by patchy form in the next. When in form, he was tough to handle, and when he wasn’t, he cut a frustrating figure. But the club saw enough to hand him a three-year deal in August 2013.
Things are different nowadays. After receiving a call-up for the Socceroos in 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 the experience has made him a better player.
Why you need to know him
While his impressive form at Swindon Town this season, which has seen him score three goals and bag five assists in 21 appearances in League 1, has caught the eye of scouts from higher divisions, it is arguably his Asian Cup form which has seen him make the headlines.
The youngster has featured in every match in Asia’s premier competition as a central midfielder, and has adequately deputised for Mark Bresciano while he has found his opportunities limited.
His general creativity down the flank, 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 has been a joy to watch. Not to mention his four assists and his decisive opener to turn the match in favour of the Socceroos as the host nation won an inaugural Asian Cup crown has fans salivating for bigger things to come.
The most impressive aspect of Luongo is the fact that, slowly but surely, his weaknesses are being eradicated from his play, and he is now bearing the fruits of hard work.
They say that impressive performances at international tournaments normally lead to bigger things. And it seems Luongo might be on the move soon with clubs the likes of Sevilla, and other English clubs knocking on the door for the player.
Indeed, it’s Luongo’s ability on the ball which makes him such an attractive player to watch.
As a highly technical player who is fleet of foot and possesses a burst at speed, the midfielder is a threat to defences and has the ability of playing around tight defences due to his nifty footwork.
Even more startling, though, is his precision on the pass and exquisite vision of the game. Often preferring to operate on the right side of a midfield triangle, Luongo is able to pick out incisive passes in advanced positions, often giving his side a cutting edge in attack. Needless to say, his ability to play through tight spaces, aerial ability as well as his trait of tracking back and doing his bit in defence makes him close to a complete footballer.
Despite his constant improvement, inconsistency means he can cut a peripheral figure when teams need him. In addition, Luongo is guilty of over playing 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 Town coach 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 a matter of time before they receive an offer that is too good to refuse.
Did you know?
Massimo Luongo is only the third player in Swindon Town’s history to represent an international side after Jan Aage Fjortoft (Norway) and Alan McLoughlin (Republic of Ireland).
What happens next?
Luongo’s captivating performances throughout this season as well as at the Asian Cup have seen a number of suitors chase after him. Sevilla, Wigan and other sides remain well in the mix.
Nevertheless, it seems Luongo’s current ambition is to remain at Swindon Town and help the side that gave him everything gain promotion into the Championship. But time will tell.
Given his undoubted ability and constantly improving perfromances where he has shown his mettle on the big stage, it seem Swindon will have to relinquish their grip on the player sooner rather than later.