Ferdinand 'perplexed' by Luongo's fall down Socceroos' pecking order

Queens Park Rangers director of football Les Ferdinand has revealed he is "perplexed" by midfielder Massimo Luongo's recent struggles to crack the Socceroos starting lineup.

In electric form for his club, but no longer an automatic pick for his country, QPR's stand-in skipper is knocking loudly on the door for Saturday morning's (AEDT) World Cup play-off between Australia and Honduras at San Pedro Sula's Estadio Olimpicio.

With Mark Milligan suspended, Luongo could be in line to partner fit-again skipper Mile Jedinak in the febrile atmosphere of what promises to be a helter-skelter first leg of the road to Russia decider.

Former England, Newcastle and Tottenham star Ferdinand believes it would be no more than the 25-year-old deserves.

"He's been the model of consistency for us this season," said Ferdinand.

"To be honest, I'm a little bit perplexed why he's not been starting for Australia in light of the way he's been playing for us, but football is a game of opinions and it's the manager's (Ange Postecoglou's) call.

"It's strange because he's playing some of the best football of his club career so far yet is missing out on starts for the Socceroos.

"But that's just part of football and you just accept it and get on with things."

Luongo has started just five of Australia's 11 games so far this year, and only made one cameo off the bench in last month's narrow aggregate playoff win against Syria.

Ferdinand, who helped nurture Luongo in his former incarnation as Tottenham Hotspur's academy chief, was instrumental in bringing him to Loftus road from Swindon in mid-2015.

And he believes he is fast closing in on Premier League quality.

"If Massimo can add goals to his game and up his number of assists we wouldn't be able to keep hold of him ... somebody from the Premier League  would come and take him," he said.

"He needs to add one of those elements to get to where I think he can go."

Ferdinand revealed that Luongo is drawing inspiration with brushes with world stars Philippe Cautinho and Julian Draxler earlier this year in the friendly with Brazil and duel with Germany at the Confederations Cup.

"We sat down after the Confederations Cup and Massimo said that playing against those two great number 10s showed him what he needs to do," explained Ferdinand.

"He said they were both unbelievable, and you just couldn't get anywhere near them.

"You can coach people and you can work with people but sometimes they come up against somebody who absolutely changes the way they think.

"I think those two players have changed the way he thinks, and the way he wants to play. 

"They have shown him the effect he knows he needs to have in a game.

"This season has been closer to that than I have ever seen him.

"He's working on adding those missing ingredients and that's the most important thing.

"He's having more shots in the game and he's now doing more to slide teammates in if they're making the right runs.

"I don't want to lose him but he's not far away from being ready to play in the EPL.

"At that level you play with better players and the better you become."

Luongo has been linked recently with a move to ambitious Nottingham Forest, but Ferdinand views that as more "a sideways" option than a genuine step forward.

"With Massimo, like any player, QPR is a platform for them," he added.

"If somebody from the Premier League comes in and buys him, it shows that we as a club are heading in the right direction.

"If we have players who can't take us to the Premier League straightaway, we are not going to stand in their way ... so long as a club pays a decent amount of money and we are able to replenish our squad."

Lavishly dubbed by coach Ian Holloway as the most gifted midfielder in the Championship, Ferdinand said Luongo had shown heightened maturity in stepping up to take the armband in the absence of the injured Nedum Onouha.

"The manager has been full of praise for him, saying as long as he's fit he'll always play," he said.

"He's part of an important midfield who feed off each other.

"I asked Massimo the other day whether it was a burden on him and he said, 'Don't worry I'm capable of it'.

"I think with his displays you can see how he's maturing with the extra responsibility.

"How far he goes in the game is down to him ... we've given him the chance and it's up to him to take the bull by the horns and show what he's capable of doing."

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Have a story or comment? Contact Us

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Watch nowOn Demand
Follow SBS Sport
5 min read
Published 10 November 2017 at 11:01am
By Dave Lewis