The attack-focused league giving Caceres a Socceroos shot

Anthony Caceres says he is being tested in the more open, attack-focused confines of the Arabian Gulf League compared with the structured nature of the A-League.

Caceres joined UAE club Al-Wasl on loan from Melbourne City in August and the attacking midfielder is enjoying his time at the Dubai-based outfit, which currently sit only six points behind league leaders Al Ain with six games left.

He has been a regular for Al-Wasl, playing every league game and scoring one goal, as well as claiming two assists.

Caceres admits the Arabian Gulf League is more dynamic and attack-orientated competition than the defensive-minded A-League, something which suits his own individual attributes.

“I find the A-League to be a lot more structured,” he told The World Game.

“There’s a lot more discipline in amongst the teams when it comes to defensive structure, defensive work rate. Whereas here they look to go forward and use the skills of the individual. 

“There’s a lot of matchwinners in this league, players that are capable of turning a game around with a moment of their skill. I find the A-League to be more physical.

“There are stronger players in the league and players that are capable of maintaining a high intensity for 90 minutes. Here it’s one v one battles and winning those sort of battles to get a result in games.

“It’s really tested and pushed me to be creative and do what I can do on the ball. It challenges me to come up with solutions and show what I can do. It’s something I’ve really enjoyed.

“A new experience in a foreign country, a foreign league – I think I’ve taken a lot out of it. It’s a competitive league.

"It’s a very open style of league here, you would say almost an improvised style of play that relies a lot on individual brilliance or ability of players to win games.

“There’s a lot of talented foreigners, many Brazilians and they really make a difference. It’s an entertaining style of football that they play."

With Al-Wasl also involved in the AFC Champions League, the 25-year-old hopes to force his way into Socceroo contention with a World Cup coming up.

“Definitely, it’s always in the back of my mind,” Caceres said.

“Obviously you take things day by day and focus on each game as it comes and hopefully put on a performance decent enough to attract some sort of attention. It hasn’t come yet but with hard work and consistency and good performances, the day will come when I get that chance.

“You try to perform in every game. I’m lucky that the club is doing well and we’re participating in the Asian Champions League, which is a very strong league and I get to play against the best teams in Asia.

“It’s always at the back of my mind and working to reach a level suitable for the national team.”

Al-Wasl are coached by former Argentine international Rodolfo Arruabarrena and have three Brazilian attackers on their books in Caio, Fabio Lima and Ronaldo Mendes.

The club has only lost two league games this season and has reached the quarter-finals of both the President's Cup and the UAE League Cup.

“We’re alive in every competition we’re participating in,” Caceres said.

“In the league we’re six points behind first. We’re playing in the Gulf Cup as the Presidential Cup as well as the Asian Champions League. So we’ve got a fair few competitions to juggle and we’re coping very well in all of them.

“As a player what you look for is different challenges all the time and I guess there’s plenty of challenges in all these competitions. It’s a good chance to show what you can do as a player and collectively we look to win as many games as possible and hopefully at the end have won some silverware.

“When you look back on your career you look at the titles you have won. It would be nice for me to come here and in my first season walk away with some silverware."

Caceres’ loan with Al-Wasl finishes at the end of this season and the UAE club have an option to buy the Manchester City-owned player, but the man himself is keeping his options open.

“There’s still a fair bit of football to be played,” he said.

“We’ve got 17 or so games to go, depending on how far we go in the cup competitions. Anything can happen. Things happen very quickly in football and who knows what opportunities will present themselves between now and the end of the year.

“As a player you’re looking to achieve as much as you can in your career. Me, myself, I would like to continue to test myself in different leagues and see how far I can go. 

“We’ll see how things unfold from now until the end of the year and obviously make a decision once there’s a clearer picture.”

Caceres still harbours ambitions playing in Europe at some point in the future.

“Europe is where everyone dreams of playing,” the playmaker said.

“It’s a place where the best footballers are at, in the best leagues. It’s definitely where I’d like to end up and test myself against the best players in the world. I’ll be striving for that.”

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5 min read
Published 16 February 2018 at 4:35pm
By John Davidson