A look back through a decade of single-figure highs and lows
Mitchell Adam and Aidan Watts-Fawkes
David Williams sits atop Melbourne City’s appearances-made list, something of an island on 101 as our only player to crack the ton.
But what about the other end of the spectrum? The players who, through a lack of opportunity, injury or short tenures, never cracked double figures in a Heart and/or City shirt?
The excellent Ultimate A-League database lists 42 players who fit into that category, including eight with a solitary appearance and six who are stranded on nine.
Some are footnotes, while the impact of others – be it on-field, off-field or because of what happened around them – is etched in our memories.
We’ve picked 10 notable names from that group, revisited and ranked their stories.
For the purpose of this exercise, we’re purely talking A-League appearances, so no friendlies or FFA Cup outings, and have overlooked current squad members.
10. Marcelo Carrusca
Three appearances, 2017-18
Marcelo Carrusca had a decorated career at Adelaide United and, in the deadpan words of The Age’s Michael Lynch, a “largely uneventful” one at Melbourne City.
The Argentinian featured three times for City, all off the bench, during a brief stint plagued by injury and fitness issues.
That he played almost every match for the rest of that season after linking with the Wanderers in January 2018 does, though, suggest there was more at play.
After all, City under Warren Joyce was hardly somewhere you’d expect a South American with flair to flourish.
Carrusca was 34 when he joined City and in the twilight of his career. The Reds got the best out of him but it’s worth pondering whether we could’ve benefited from his talent without the combination of his injury setbacks and joyless, soulless Joyceball.
The former Argentina under-20 international retired in May 2019 after a brief stint with NPL SA club West Adelaide and has turned his hand to coaching. - AW
9. Ali Eyigun
One appearance, 2015-16
Ali Eyigun is perhaps unlucky that his A-League debut in January 2016 coincided with a half-hour of football that’s best forgotten by City fans.
An injury-ravaged City was being schooled by Sydney FC, but somehow hadn’t conceded when coach John van’t Schip changed shape on 34 minutes. Young midfielder Eyigun was sacrificed for Michael Zullo.
His substitution was as expected as his inclusion was unexpected. But the match remains notable beyond circumstances cutting a promising debut short.
Firstly, the result: Aaron Hughes scored his first goal and City hung on for a 2-2 draw on a bizarre, extraordinary night.
Secondly, the no-name squad: Five of the 16 players ended their City tenures having played fewer than 10 matches.
And thirdly, the tactics: Van’t Schip switched to a 3-5-2 when Zullo came on, a formation that served us so well for the rest of that MFN season.
Eyigun spent the winter of 2017 with City’s youth team and won the NPL2 Rising Star award.
He returned to Pascoe Vale, where he developed his craft, in 2018 and has played there since. For what it’s worth, he’s still only 22. - AW
8. Wade Dekker
Five appearances, 2015-16
For all of the fondly-remembered MFN attacking flair of the 2015-16 season, Wade Dekker actually opened Melbourne City’s account, in a 1-1 draw away to Sydney in Round 1.
Dekker was a youth team graduate, the Y-League Golden Boot winner in City’s title-winning 2014-15 season, and even had a run against Manchester City in a mid-2015 friendly.
The young forward was brought down by an ankle injury after three appearances and, despite getting back for a couple of late-season cameos, was not offered a contract extension.
Still only 25, Dekker has played in the NPL Victoria since, with Green Gully and Oakleigh Cannons, and last year signalled his hopes of getting back into the A-League. - MA
7. Anthony Lesiotis
One appearance, 2018-19
You can put Anthony Lesiotis in the basket of ‘the ones that got away’.
Or perhaps we should be pleased that for every Behich, Fred and Kewell, there’s finally a Lesiotis – an ex-City player at Victory, and not the other way around.
Coincidentally, Lesiotis’ six minutes for City were as a substitute in a Melbourne Derby as we held on for a 2-1 win in October 2018.
By January, he’d crossed town to Victory and he’s become a rising star – useful at full-back and at the base of midfield.
Lesiotis cited having Luke Brattan, Osama Malik, Rostyn Griffiths and Kearyn Baccus ahead of him in the pecking order as a factor in his decision to leave.
Only Griffiths remains, although it’s food for thought whether we’d have signed Adrian Luna, or witnessed the emergence of Connor Metcalfe and Denis Genreau, had he stayed.
Regardless, having seen how he’s made an impact across town, City fans longing for home-grown products to take the club forward would have him back in a heartbeat. - AW
6. Andrea Migliorini
Nine appearances, three goals, 2013-14
Can you remember the eight matches Andrea Migliorini played for Melbourne Heart that weren’t against Adelaide United? No, neither can we.
It’s debatable whether we’ve had a short-lived import that is remembered as fondly as Migliorini among the faithful.
The Italian was scouted by Vince Grella and joined Heart as an injury replacement for marquee Orlando Engelaar, who broke a leg in a pre-season friendly.
Migliorini’s first five matches were inconspicuous, although he did net a deflected free-kick against Newcastle.
But he etched himself into club folklore a week later, in December 2013, scoring an absurd brace in a 3-3 draw against the Reds.
The first goal was as good as the A-League has seen. Here was a no-name signing rocketing a swerving, dipping shot from distance into a top corner. Simon Hill’s commentary is a joy to listen back to. His second goal that day wasn’t bad either.
Migliorini played three more matches for the club and finished his stint without a win.
His career since reads like a list of fine Italian wines – Delta Porto Tolle, Pordenone, Mestre, Messina, Cavese.
The latest destination is Lecco, in the coronavirus-hit region of Lombardy. We hope he’s well. - AW
5. Aaron Hughes
Six appearances, one goal, 2015-16
Aaron Hughes only made four more appearances for Melbourne City in the 2015-16 season than he did for Northern Ireland at the 2016 Euros.
Even approaching 36, the defender looked a decent-enough signing, having carved out lengthy stints with Newcastle and then Fulham.
He had to wait for Round 6 to make an inauspicious debut, injuring his calf in the first half, and did not return until Round 11.
The rest of his appearances came in January 2016, highlighted by a goal in the aforementioned 2-2 draw against Sydney.
Hughes wasn’t seen again for City, and was released at the end of the campaign, but did start two of Northern Ireland’s three Euros fixtures months later.
It invoked precious memories of Michael Mifsud getting Maltese national team call-ups while running around with the Heart youth team. - MA
4. Craig Goodwin
Four appearances, 2011-12
In February 2012, Craig Goodwin produced one of the most exciting debuts in A-League history. A month later, he was in talks to move to Newcastle and come the end of the season, he was gone.
After an A-League double, a FFA Cup, a Mark Viduka Medal and two stints overseas, the question remains: How did Melbourne Heart let Goodwin escape its clutches?
Adelaide-raised Goodwin wasn’t considered good enough for the Reds’ youth team. He found his way to Oakleigh Cannons, from where he was plucked to join Heart’s youth ranks.
His stunning debut, keeping Marco Rojas and co at bay in a Melbourne Derby stalemate, was the first of four matches in red and white.
But Aziz Behich was ahead of Goodwin at left-back and opportunities were scarce.
Not that we didn’t try to hang onto him – Heart, Sydney and Wellington reportedly chased his signature at the end of 2011-12 but Newcastle “made me feel like I needed to be here”.
Goodwin could’ve been anything at Bundoora. Adelaide fans adore him these days. Frustratingly, we never got the chance to. - AW
3. Liam Miller
Two appearances, 2014-15
A-League ‘National Replacement Player’ signings are so unique that the term only shows up in Google in connection with the late Liam Miller, in November 2014. It’s hard to know if the provision still even exists...
But that’s how the former Celtic, Manchester United, Leeds, Sunderland and Hibs midfielder joined Melbourne City.
Miller was signed for a single match, against the Central Coast Mariners, owing to national team call-ups for Aaron Mooy (Socceroos) and Stefan Mauk (Olyroos).
He had just split with Brisbane Roar in the early stages of the campaign, having been part of the squad that won the 2013-14 grand final months earlier. That followed two seasons as a key part of the Perth Glory midfield.
Miller impressed in his City debut and signed a short-term injury-cover contract, but left for his hometown club Cork City in January 2015 after just one more appearance.
He died in February 2018, aged 36, following a battle with pancreatic cancer. - MA
2. Vince Grella
One appearance, 2012-13
An Australian footballing legend like Vinnie Grella deserved a better send-off than the one he was handed on Australia Day 2013.
Grella was a late signing for Melbourne Heart, officially linking with former Golden Generation Socceroos team-mate John Aloisi’s squad a week after the season had started.
The soft-tissue injuries that plagued Grella’s stint with Blackburn Rovers followed him home to Melbourne, though, delaying his long-awaited debut until a late-January trip to Parramatta to face the Wanderers.
The 33-year-old entered the fray in the 68th minute but tore a calf muscle shortly afterwards.
Playing out the 90 minutes marked the end of the distinguished midfielder’s career. - MA
1. David Villa
Four appearances, two goals, 2014-15
In 2014, David Villa’s footballing journey encompassed – in succession – a Champions League final with Atlético Madrid, the World Cup with Spain and the A-League with Melbourne City.
Signing Villa, via new sister club New York City, was a massive coup for the rebranded Melbourne City, a sign of intent from CFG and the perfect way to launch its new era, even if it was only ever going to be a 10-match foray.
But, in the end, it was a tease – four winless appearances across 20 days.
Villa jetted in at the last minute and showed his class to score against Sydney in the season opener, and then in Round 2 against Newcastle to salvage a late draw in a much-hyped home debut.
From there, though, the best-credentialled player to ever wear a Heart/City shirt only made two more appearances before heading to New York.
Villa’s short-term visit could have been a platform on which to build Melbourne City. It wasn’t, it was a sugar hit.
But it’s exactly the sort of hit the club and A-League craves six years on. - MA
The latest player to finish in single figures was Javier Cabrera, who turned out nine times this season before heading to Argentina in January.
That was at least a significantly better return than Michael O’Halloran a season earlier, who made a single appearance before returning to Scotland on compassionate grounds.
Christian Cavallo is another single-run player, and nearly made this list based on the infamy of being one of seven players credited with a solitary minute of A-League action.
James Delianov was also in the mix thanks to a City appearance that probably should have been Mark Birighitti’s, in the final round of the 2018-19 season.
Birighitti joined City expected to, at least, challenge Eugene Galekovic for the keeping spot but spent the season on the pine and then missed out with a sore knee when Galekovic was rested pre-finals.
Finally, Safuwan Baharudin remains the only Singaporean to have played in the A-League across six starts for City in 2014-15 that netted two goals from defence. - MA
The current squad
Of the 2019-20 Melbourne City players with senior matches to their name, Idrus Abdulahi and Jack Hendry have played the fewest, with two.
Abdulahi, City’s youngest-ever player, has twice come off the bench and was the catalyst for a stunning team goal in that final-round thrashing of Central Coast last season.
Celtic loanee Hendry was an injury-replacement signing for Richard Windbichler (who’s stuck on three appearances) but tore his medial collateral ligament against Adelaide United, a week after making an impressive debut.
Emerging attackers Stefan Colakovski (a boyhood Heart fan) and Moudi Najjar should expect to build on their five appearances when the A-League resumes.
Just avoiding the cut were Tom Glover (the best name among the goalkeepers’ union) and Spaniard Markel Susaeta (can we keep him?) with 10, and Denis Genreau with 11. - AW