A Good or a Bad Time to Return?

October 7, 2014 at 11:03 am 7 comments

What motivates an athlete in todays sporting world? Is it money? To earn enough that he will be set up for life? Is it success in the sport that they play? To play at the highest level possible and pit their wits against the best, to know exactly how good they really were when they reflect back on heir career? Is it all about winning trophies? To be honest each individual is different, so there is no definitive answer.

Australian striker Nikita Rukavystya is no doubt asking himself many of those questions at this very time, as he ways up a possible return to Australia from a career in Europe, and then whether he opts for Western Sydney Wanderers or the club he left in his hometown Perth, Perth Glory.

In the back of Rukavystya’s mind will be the fact that he was overlooked for the squad that new Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou took to the World Cup in Brazil. To many this was a baffling decision as Rukavystya’s blistering pace late in a game when defenders are tired is always likely to earn a penalty or see him outstrip a defence and possibly score. Did the two fall out after the Western Australian made himself unavailable for a camp? Opting to play in Australia and scoring regularly would put him under the nose of Postecoglou and make it hard for the coach not to select him.

Yet a return to Australia would bring to an end Rukavystya’s European dream at a time when he should be at his peak aged 27.

It is interesting to compare Rukavystya’s career path with that of his former Australian Institute of Sport colleague Nathan Burns who opted to return to the A-league in 2013-14 on loan to Newcastle Jets. Burns is a year younger than Rukavystya at 26.

Both attended the AIS in 2006. Burns joined Adelaide United after his one year in Canberra while Rukavystya joined Perth Glory after his two years in the nation’s capital. Both spent two seasons with their A-League clubs, Burns played 35 games and scored 9 goals, Rukavystya played 42 and scored 16; The latter was an out and out striker, whereas Burns was often used wide or as a second striker.

Burns moved to AEK Athens on a four year deal Rukavystya went to FC Twente. Both players were loaned out to other clubs, Rukavystaya was eventually sold to Bundesliga 2 side Hertha Berlin while Burns contract was terminated, and he headed to South Korea and signed for Incheon United. Rukavystya was a regular starter at Herha and helped steer them back to the German top flight, yet right on the transfer deadline he switched clubs and joined Mainz. He has struggled there and spent a season on loan to Frankfurt back in Bundesliga 2. Burns struggled at Incheon and was loaned to A-League club Newcastle Jets and has now signed permanently with Wellington Phoenix.

Both of these players were selected for the AIS because they were stand out players in their age groups around the country. Both were destined for higher things, yet some may say have not quite managed to fulfil their potential. Was this bad management, in the choice of clubs they signed for? Were they sent to top flight clubs too soon? Did the AIS prepare them adequately for a career in top flight football?

Both of these players at 26 and 27 should be at the peak of the playing powers. Yet instead of playing their football amongst the best in Europe, there is a chance that both could be back in Australia playing. As much as many will say it is great that some of our most talented players are back in Australia playing it is very sad that they are. They shouldn’t be here. We should not want them back here playing at 26, 27 28 years of age. This is when we need them playing at the highest level so that our national team benefits from that experience, and the standard at which they are used to playing.

Burns had moments last year where you saw the player that excited as a youngster at Adelaide, but in the main he looked a shadow of that talent. This year under Ernie Merrick expect him to be revitalised.

It will be hard for Rukavystya if he comes back to Australia. There will be huge expectations attached to his performance, and inside there would no doubt be huge disappointment that realistically he is unlikely to ever play in Europe again. His best option if he wanted another move overseas would be Asia, but unless you are playing in Japan or possibly Korea, it is again a questionable move and one that is usually made purely for a retirement plan.

One cannot help feeling that if his management was more careful and thought about which team would best suited his skills and temperament, he could still carve out a successful career in Europe; yet some agents will always opt for the easy option, which is a return home and security in a regular game and good money.

Many will celebrate if Rukavystya returns, yet there are those of us who will be very sad to see it happen. He showed the year Hertha Berlin won promotion back the Bundesliga that he can play, and hold down a regular place in a side. He was second highest in the league with assists that season. He should be at the peak of his playing powers, and therefore he should be playing at the highest level possible. Whatever anyone says the A-League is a big drop from the level he can and should still be playing at.

The final hard decision will be his. How he reaches that decisions only he will know but ultimately it may all come back to that key question, what motivates a player?


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Erasing History Not Playing Ball

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stephen  |  October 7, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Spot on! These two players should not be playing in the A-League at 26/27 and the fact that they are or may be, is an indictment on the development of players in Australia since the FFA took over. The AIS should be shut down for what good it has done in producing players of late. Most spend 1-2 years in the A-league and then are back in state leagues. It is very sad that these two boys who had heaps of talent may be back in the A-League graveyard at the peak of their careers, and anyone who celebrates them coming back knows nothing about football.

    I have to say if Nikita does come back I hope he goes to WSW as I feel Popovic will get more out of him than anyone at Perth Glory will. At least there he will be able to concentrate solely on playing football.

  • 2. Ryan  |  October 7, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    I don’t think it was a baffling decision that Ange left out Ruka for the World Cup. I’d have taken Macdonald over a guy that couldn’t hold down a club spot for over a year at a time.

    For Ruka you have to break it down, if it’s sentiment, he may come to Perth but that would low priority in my opinoin, he already tried to go Israel due to his wife, coming to Perth would only be a back up. Trying to go to Maccabi Haifa I think is an indication his European career is over.

    If it is either club success or international success (making the team) then he would be best served going to Western Sydney as they have one of the best squads, best administration and best coaches in the A-League, he’d be far better served making his blistering runs in Parramatta than he would running after long ball in Perth.

    Perth offering money, well he’s only a footballer for a small part of his life, if he wants it you can’t begrudge him that.

    As for his time in Europe…well at the end of the day perhaps he just wasn’t that good. You can have high expectations but they aren’t always going to be met. A very good A-League player is still borderline Socceroo anyway (at the moment). It’s that bad a playing level.

  • 3. Not The Footy Show  |  October 8, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Guys thanks for commenting.

    Ryan I agree with so much you have said. As you know its all about opinions. With Nikita’s pace I would have taken him to the World Cup. My reasoning late in a game when defenders are tired he would have been lethal. Australia’s problem has been scoring goals he will create opportunities with his pace. Also on the fringe of a team in Europe he would have played out of his skin in such a shop window.

    I agree maybe these guys were not as good as the hype made out when they left. How many players have suffered the same fate in recent times? A lack of honest assessment by many TV pundits?

    Stephen I have been a long term advocate that the AIS needs looking at. I think ne of the biggest mistakes they made was lowering the age, and as a result players come out and almost have a year in limbo, they are still boys and not yet men, and lack the know how to be in a man’s world. This was something the likes of Kewell, Grella, Moore etc learned at the AIS as well as fine tuning their skills.

    As you say Ryan if we have to dip into the A-League for our Socceroos we are in a very sorry state.

  • 4. All White  |  October 8, 2014 at 9:01 am

    I have to say that in many cases and these may well be examples these players would have been better off playing with lesser known clubs and building up to big clubs as Schwarzer, Cahill, Neil, Muscat, Vidmar, Moore all did.

    Too many young Australians go for the big dollars with a big club, don’t play much football and then come back to a second rate career and life in the A-League. Adam Taggart will be another who will be back before you know it. He is not ready for a club like Fulham. Had he played for a lower club like Massimo Luongo, he would get games and then can climb the ladder. Luongo was not getting a game at Spurs so moved down a notch nothing wrong with that, a smart move it proves as now a Socceroo. If you look even Brad Smith who is at Liverpool is on loan to a lower league club to get game time.

    I blame the agents in a lot of cases and also parents who are blinded by the bright lights but do not make decisions that are best for their child’s career.

  • 5. Ryan  |  October 14, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Ah goodness me, worst case of omittance ever! Last sentence should have ‘not’ appropriately placed in it.

    I *don’t* think that the quality of the league is that bad, indeed it’s pretty good if even the standard is lacking a bit. The top players here (like Milligan, McKay, Spiranovic etc) definitely get in the squad on merit.

    I’d say the fact that there’s less Socceroos from Europe making the team is more an indictment on the amount of Aussies playing overseas than it is the A-League, as well as the manager trying to blood new players regularly because it wasn’t done at least 2 years when it should have.

  • 6. Ryan  |  October 14, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Take a look at who was in Ruka’s ‘AIS’ class of 2006:
    Mitch Langerak
    Matthew Spiranovic
    Robbie Kruse
    Dario Vidiosic
    Nathan Burns
    Bruce Djite
    Michael Marrone

    Four other Glory players: Velaphi, Vrteski, Downer, Berger

    And quite a number of other players involved in the A-League


    To be honest looking at the recent seasons, there doesn’t seem to be that big a hitrate as the ’06 class but it does look like it is at least 3-4 seasons before you can make a call on them.

    For example the ’11 class with a lot of WA youngsters is only really just emerging with 11 players in senior A-League sides, 2 recently delisted (for personal reasons) whereas ’10 class has two Socceroos already in it, 3 other OS Aussies, and 7 players involved in A-League sides.

    • 7. Ryan  |  October 14, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      *4 OS Aussies. Forgot Lennox is at QPR (Degenek, Giannou, Edwards other three)


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