Melbourne City FC is about to witness some unprecedented times in its history.
The club will contest its first-ever AFC Champions League group stage this month, facing foreign opposition for the first time in its history outside of a domestic league setting.
Playing six games in 17 days in a centralised hub in Thailand, there will be few individuals with previous experience that comes anything close to what the team will soon face – but there are a few who won’t be strangers to the Champions League.
Amongst the City squad, there are five players with previous AFC Champions League experience (not including qualifiers), whose familiarity with the conditions and opposition that we are set to face will be relied upon throughout this historic month for the club.
There’s only one place to start though, and that’s with Scott Jamieson and his run to the 2008 Final with Adelaide United. The defender made four appearances in the campaign leading up to that two-legged bout with Gamba Osaka, in which he appeared in both games, as his Reds side were accounted for comprehensively both at home and abroad, losing 5-0 on aggregate.
Their misfortune wasn’t all for nothing, with Adelaide’s overall second-place finish seeing them into the Club World Cup that was contested a month later. Jamieson featured three times in the competition, beating New Zealand’s Waitakere United and Egypt’s Al Ahly, but losing again to Gamba Osaka.
The now 33-year-old City defender has by far the most extensive continental record of any of his teammates, making a total of 21 appearances in such competitions, but not since 2011 with Sydney FC.
Whilst Jamieson is the only current City player to have really featured extensively in the competition, he’s not the only one to have played in multiple Champions League campaigns.
Fellow defender Scott Galloway made his Asian debut in 2014 in a 1-0 win by Melbourne Victory over Yokohama F. Marinos, but later appeared in the 2016 edition too. Galloway has featured five times in the competition overall.
Andrew Nabbout similarly debuted in Asia in 2014, taking on Guangzhou Evergrande with Melbourne Victory in what was his first of four appearances in that year’s Champions League edition. The winger’s return to the club later in his career means he is also the City player with the most recent experience in the competition, featuring twice in the 2020 edition.
Like Galloway and Nabbout, Jamie Maclaren and Mathew Leckie have also made at least a handful of appearances in the AFC Champions League.
Maclaren had a prolific campaign with Brisbane Roar in 2017 where, despite his team’s failure to progress amidst some heavy defeats abroad, the striker was lethal on home soil, scoring twice against Ulsan Hyundai and once against Kashima Antlers. City fans will thus hope to see the current A-League Golden Boot leader build on his existing record of three goals in five ACL fixtures.
Leckie has also proven himself handy at the continental level, scoring twice in six games for Adelaide United in the 2010 edition of the competition. The Socceroo winger was able to do the business against teams from some of Asia’s biggest nations, netting those goals against South Korea’s Pohang Steelers and China’s Shandong Luneng Taishan.
In addition to having five players with Asian experience, there are a further two in the squad with appearances in the Champions Leagues of other continents.
Carl Jenkinson featured in four UEFA Champions League campaigns with Arsenal FC between 2011 and 2017, making 10 appearances against some of the biggest clubs in world football, including Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The English defender also appeared in three Europa League fixtures with his boyhood club in 2018/19.
Over in North America’s CONCACAF Champions League, Tsubasa Endoh made three appearances over two separate campaigns, taking on Mexico’s CD Crul Azul and Panama’s CA Independiente.