How Socceroos 'find' Luongo went from zero to hero

Attacking midfielder Massimo Luongo admitted that a whirlwind year that turned him from a nobody into an Australia star had caught him by surprise.


Massimo Luongo is one of Australian football's rising stars Source: Getty Images

Luongo, 23, rose to international fame when he played a key role in the Socceroos' 2015 AFC Asian Cup win on home soil.

Luongo was playing for English third tier Swindon Town at the time but his stellar performances for club and country earned him a transfer to Championship side Queens Park Rangers in July.

Luongo has become a vital player for Ange Postecoglou's Socceroos as they bid to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.


"I have been surprised with the way things are going. I think everything has been jammed into one year," he said from London, as the team prepares for the home match against Leeds United.

"I expected it to take me 10 years to establish myself in the national team not 12 months.
"It's been a bit of a rush this year - a bit like fast-forward in my career - and it has had its ups and downs.

"So now it's up to me to keep up with the high bar I have set myself."

Luongo, who was a non-playing member of Australia's squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, said the club and country scenario is providlng him with two kinds of pressure.

"For QPR I can take it in my stride because I am at a new club which knows little about me," he said.

"The league itself does not know about me and the fans do not really know me because I have been playing in a competition below and the Asian Cup is not big in England.

"The tournament was not shown in the same way as the European Championship, for example, so there was little exposure for me.

"With the national team, however, there is a lot of pressure because the public, the media and everyone look at me as one of the main players.

"They are always expecting something from me and it's a good pressure but I've got to mature as a player to overcome it."
So do the fans expect too much from him after his exploits in the Asian Cup, when he was named man of the tournament?

"Remember, I'm definitely not at my peak yet," he said.

"Perhaps the fans do expect a bit too much from me after the Asian Cup. Asking me to do so much is a bit harsh because before the tournament I was a nobody, no one saw me as a main player for the Socceroos.

"The Asian Cup is not a long tournament so in the space of a month I went from being a nobody to having to deal with an expectation to be at the top.

"I suppose, there is all this pressure on me because I have raised the bar so high."

Sydney-born Luongo left Australia in 2011 to sign as an apprentice with Tottenham Hotspur but was subsequently loaned out to Ipswich Town and Swindon to gain more experience.

In 2013 he signed a contract with the Robins in an inspired move that may have turbo-charged his fledgling career.

"The biggest turning point came when I signed for Swindon from Tottenham," he said.

"Because I had to drop down two leagues it looked like I had failed at Tottenham and was forced to play in a lower league.

"But it was the best decision I made because all-up I played almost a 100 games for Swindon.

"Because I was playing 50 games a season I got greater exposure and people started coming to look at me.

"Dropping down a league or two is not that easy when you're young. The quality might not be as high but there is more physicality involved and you gain a lot of experience."

Australia's Socceroos are the major beneficiaries of that move.

“I'm a box-to-box midfielder and I express myself a lot more when I’m playing for the national team because I know I have the backing of the manager and the coaches to attack,” he said, when asked if playing for the pro-active Socceroos was more enjoyable than the more cautious QPR.

“I am encouraged to go on all-out attack and not worry about what’s behind me. 

“Given that, the defensive part of my job which I also enjoy doing also helps the team out."

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4 min read
Published 28 November 2015 at 8:49am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS