Melbourne Victory would like Archie Thompson to finish his time in the game in navy blue as a legend of the club he has done so much to create.
Thompson would like to end up where he has played his A-League career in a city where he and his family are settled and he has become a star.
But will the union be continued, or will Thompson – who I would argue has been the A-League’s consistently best player in its nine years – end up somewhere else?
The star striker comes out of contract at the end of this season and talks between the club and the player’s representative have begun. There does not yet appear to be a sense of urgency about the deal.
But one thing is certain: Thompson, who will be 36 when the 2014-15 A-League season kicks off, will no longer be a marquee player and command the sort of salary that such status brings.
Nor is he likely to have the cachet of an international player, as his days as a Socceroo look numbered as national coach Ange Postecoglou looks to rebuild for the future at the World Cup in Brazil later this year and in the Asian Cup, which Australia hosts, next year.
It’s a difficult balancing act for all parties.
History is replete with examples of star players who fell out with their club in their twilight years as they felt their services were not being adequately rewarded for all the time they had put in.
It is also full of tales of clubs that took the loyalty and commitment of legends for granted and didn’t put forward a last deal that reflected not just their current worth, but the value they had added for many seasons.
If he signs a contract, 2014-15 would be Thompson’s 10th with Victory. Given that he wears the No.10 shirt and is a genuine hero of the local game, the symmetry is neat and gives the player a chance to assume legendary status at Australia’s biggest A-League club.
That it is the biggest has much to do with his exploits. When Thompson returned from a three-year spell in Belgium in 2005 he wasn’t exactly a superstar, but he was a highly regarded striker whose pace and tricks, not to mention his smile and his verve, quickly made him a fan favourite.
Former Socceroo coach Guus Hiddink thought enough of him that he signed him on a six-month loan deal with then Dutch champion PSV Eindhoven so he could move to Holland and train and be fit enough to be part of his 2006 World Cup squad – a necessity given the A-League finished so early that year.
For many, certainly those who only take a casual interest in the A-League, Thompson and his coach and former teammate Kevin Muscat are, or at least were, Melbourne Victory.
Thompson’s face adorned billboards, he had columns in The Age, and he was the marketing face of the club. He also rewarded it on the pitch where, over a nine-year period, he has earned the accolade as the league’s most consistent striker as well as the provider of the game’s greatest individual feat – when he scored five goals in the 2007 grand final rout of Adelaide United.
But Victory was good for him, too. He was given a platform to revive his career as a big fish in a smaller pond, and he revelled in the opportunities and the lesser competition, at least in those first few years, that he faced. He was also handsomely rewarded as a marquee man, with contracts reportedly worth $500,000 and $600,00 a year his due over almost all his time with the club.
But time catches up with every player, and Thompson cannot expect to command such big money again, while Victory will not expect such a major contribution. Its signing of Brisbane forward Besart Berisha as an international marquee player for next season is a clear indication of its priorities.
Still, for what he has done and what he still offers, Thompson is worth a decent, if reduced, contract with Victory.
He might get offered more money elsewhere, but if that is the case, he will have to weigh up the short-term benefits of a bit of extra cash now against his status as a one-club legend for whom Victory would undoubtedly find some sort of role, if only in an ambassadorial capacity, long after his playing days are done.
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