Imagine if you shared a dressing room with Tim Cahill? Practised shooting with Bruno Fornaroli. Or talked tactics with Thomas Sorensen?
Right now, if you were a young Australian player with talent and ambition, surely Melbourne City would be top of your wish list.
While it may be the equivalent of Mission Impossible breaking into City’s first XI, having such football royalty as mentors will stand these youngsters in great stead on their own football journeys wherever they end up in the world.
And yes, there’s a massive media focus on City’s huge signings as they power on in the Hyundai A-League and Westfield FFA Cup, but head coach John van ‘t Schip is also grooming the next-generation of Cityzens coming through the ranks at their fabulous HQ, recently described as on par with Premier League clubs by Cahill himself.
So, who are the younger, fringe Cityzens looking to make a name for themselves?
Van ‘t Schip – well respected back home in the Netherlands as well as Italy, where he was a star with Ajax and Genoa respectively – explained to www.a-league.com.au
“Ruon [Tongyik] is a defender from Adelaide. He’s a centre-back that loves to play out from the back.
“On the ball he’s a player that can build up, he’s strong in the one against one, he has good speed, and in the air he’s good. He’s a player with potential to be a leader as well.
“Of course there are things he has to prove, his concentration, his passing can be better but I hope if he continues developing and training against the likes of Cahill and Fornaroli he’s only going to get better.
“Then we have Denis Genreau is a young player from our youth team. He’s a midfield player, he’s only 16, 17, good on the ball and strong in the personal battles, he’s not afraid to put himself about.
“He’s still going to school so he can’t train every day but we believe has a bright future. We have Christian Cavallo, left full back, good player.
“Braedyn Crowley, he’s a striker, something we don’t have in our own youth that’s why we got him in. He played for Northcote in the NPL here.
“Another one is Daniel Arzani. He’s a very talented player that is struggling now with coming into an A-League environment with a lot of physical players and with a lot of players more mature than he is, he’s still just 17.
“But for a boy like him it’s great to be in the dressing room with the likes of Fornaroli, Cahill, Sorensen, Muscat, Rose, they learn a lot from those players.
“In the meantime they have to be focused on what they have to improve. We as coaches will help them and the players around them will help them as well.”
Cahill himself has identified Arzani as a genuine star of the future, saying he was “all over him” in an attempt to help his career blossom.
Van’t Schip readily admits our younger players come into a professional environment missing the benefits of some other countries’ junior development – though it’s not so much that he notices.
“They [Aussie youngsters] miss the base of being in a high football environment when they are young so they have to catch up when they are 17, 18, 19 in a quick way, to get all the things maybe they could have learned in the years before.
“But in an environment as we have for an A-League club it comes quicker and it comes more natural as every day you’re going to get pointed at for what you’re doing well but also what you have to improve by your colleague players or by your coaches.
“I don’t see there’s a big difference.
“The competition and quality maybe is not enough as we would like to have in Australia,” he noted.
“In Europe you have that much competition between good players that they lift each other to a higher level and the quantity of good players is bigger.
“There’s more leagues, there’s more academies where in their youth they can improve a lot. That’s the big difference.”
That’s why he’s pushing hard helping these local kids develop in such a professional environment.
“My challenge is… every time we see a game, to work on the details of how we can improve the team but also how we can improve players individually in little things.
“It gives you the drive to continue. It’s not always about winning, it’s about seeing a young boy playing and feeling, ‘finally he did it’.
“I always like that, to see something happening with a younger player or even a player that maybe has learned something at an age where he thought he could not expect to do those things.
“I enjoy that.”
Melbourne City face Adelaide United tonight (Friday) at AAMI Park.