Feature

He came, he saw, he conquered: that's Amor

The 2015-2016 A-League campaign will long be remembered as the season when an armada of conquistadores plundered the competition and took no prisoners.

amor

Guillermo Amor has won a major honour in his first season as head coach Source: Getty Images

Guillermo Amor, the former Barcelona and Spain midfielder, completed the job initiated by fellow Spaniard Josep Gombau by leading Adelaide to the Premiers' Plate.

Regardless of who ends up winning the championship, the skill and influence of a strong Spanish contingent in the A-League cannot be overstated.

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Adelaide, who had not yet won a game by Round 8, pipped Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar to the post by one point.



The top three finishers in the regular season had a considerable Hispanic presence to thank for their style of play, which showed that Australian teams generally have adapted to the demands of the modern game.

Spain's mentality at club and national level is based on patience, possession and midfield control and the Spanish imports that have enhanced the A-League in the past two seasons showed plenty of these qualities and they surely will determine how we will play our football in the next decade or so.

Amor came here last year straight out of the Barcelona's famed academy.

He replaced the colourful Gombau, who had planted the seeds of the Reds' tactical revolution two seasons earlier.

The affable Amor played a key role in turning around the team's fortunes after a disastrous start to the league and he never lost faith in the Reds' ability to practise what he preached.

"We always had belief in one another and in the football we were playing," Amor said after Adelaide secured top spot when Brisbane could only draw 0-0 at Melbourne Victory.

Amor's lieutenants on the field were midfield general Isaias along with forwards Pablo Sanchez and Sergio Cirio, not to mention Argentine playmaking wizard Marcelo Carrusca.

This Hispanic contingent helped transform Adelaide into a highly technical side that play the game in the opposition half and appreciate the value of patient build-up, right from the back, and flair in the front third.

Adelaide are simply a pleasure to watch these days and the physical and cautious sides that played in the first few years of the A-League have become a fading memory.



The Wanderers have become a far more entertaining team since central defender Alberto Aguilar and midfielders Dimas Delgado and Andreu traded Spanish football for Australia at the start of the season.

This Spanish trio were at the heart of every Wanderers move and their expertise, vision and consistency enabled them to play a major role in the club's revival after last season's shambles, when they came second last.

The ambitious Wanderers should do their utmost to keep this titanic trio together next season - after already re-signing Dimas. Their importance to the functionality of Tony Popovic's team is crucial. 

Brisbane largely owe their resurgence, after an off-season from hell when their future was under a cloud, to holding midfielder Corona and coach John Aloisi.

Corona established himself as one of the league's finest footballers in his first season in Australia and he would have been the team's playmaker-in-chief had he not been forced to play further back to fill in for departed Luke Brattan.

The former Almeria player nonetheless fitted in beautifully at the base of Brisbane's midfield and his energy and quality passing - not to mention his delivery from set pieces - kept Aloisi's side ticking along nicely.

Aloisi is no Spaniard, heaven forbid, but his valuable experience of playing five seasons in La Liga for Osasuna and Alaves has served him in good stead.

Aloisi also spent time at Barcelona after he was dismissed by Melbourne Heart two years ago.

He understands the Spanish way and can relate to Corona's creative mentality, which is probably why he has given him the freedom and responsibility to initiate Brisbane's cultured attacks.

Diego Castro, who joined Perth Glory from Getafe at the start of the season, was another Spaniard who distinguished himself with some exhilarating performances that helped the club reach the finals.

Central Coast Mariners got in on the act too by acquiring the services of veteran Luis Garcia on a short-term deal. The former Liverpool attacker did not disappoint in a poor side that finished bottom of the league.

So all in all it was an eye-catching performance from the A-League's Hispanic contingent - Melbourne City's Uruguayan striker Bruno Fornaroli set the league alight with a series of jaw-dropping goals.

It brought home the realisation that Australia football is finally prepared to rid itself of the overly physical and direct approach that characterised the game for decades and in so doing is providing a suitable platform for one of the game's finest cultures to flourish.

Australian teams have come to appreciate the value of keeping the ball and understand that they do not need to get to the opposition's goal in record time or score in the very first minute to win a match.

This is not to say that the Spanish have revolutionised our football all on their own. There were others who had set the ball rolling.

Vitezslav Lavicka's passing philosophy earned Sydney FC the 2010 championship and Ange Postecoglou took things to another level when he led Brisbane to back-to-back titles from 2011 with a brand of modern, possession-based, attacking football the like of which we had not seen in Australia.

Football fans in this country would also be pleased that Postecoglou has managed to transfer his positive mantra to the Socceroos, who won their first major honour when they snared the 2015 AFC Asian Cup and are well poised to reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Fans can now expect most Australian club sides and the national team to play the game on the deck and treat it like a battleground where strategy and patience hold the key.

The playing standard of the A-League has stagnated the last two seasons - too many sub-standard games and too few memorable ones - but there is no doubt that football style and attitude have become more sophisticated, largely to the contribution of a group of esteemed senors.

The A-League owes the Hispanic contingent big time.


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6 min read
Published 11 April 2016 at 11:00am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS