Ange Postecoglou, the Australian manager of Scottish heavyweights Celtic, has revealed he only needed a ‘quick conversation’ to convince Socceroo Aaron Mooy to join the club this season.
Mooy had not played at his Shanghai Port club since January, making the courageous decision to prioritise the Socceroos’ World Cup hopes by training alone outside of China in order to feature in the play-off victories over the UAE and Peru. His concern was that another Covid-19 lockdown could force him to remain in China and miss those crucial knockout clashes.
His decision paid off, with Australia set to feature at a fifth consecutive World Cup – and Mooy almost certain to be on the plane to Qatar next month.
However, the move compromised his relationship with Shanghai and left the Australian in search of a new club – and crucial minutes on the park ahead of the showpiece international tournament.
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For Postecoglou, the ‘unique’ situation presented a perfect opportunity for both Celtic and the player.
He told Foxsports.com.au: “With all players it’s part of a process, we look at sort of what we need and who’s available. And obviously Aaron it was a bit (of a) unique situation with him. Obviously, he was with Shanghai and that sort of didn’t work out in the end. And him being based here in Glasgow, I just thought it was a good opportunity for both sides, for him and for us to do something quickly to bring him in.
“Like I said, I know he’s a quality player, I know him as person, and with him sort of living here as well, I thought it was a great opportunity for both sides that make it happen. And to be fair to Aaron, it happened really quickly and I’m really pleased because we gained a good player for our squad. And knowing what’s ahead this year, I knew he could contribute.”
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Mooy was quick to agree to the deal, which came as a surprise to many Celtic fans.
“As I said, it was a quick conversation. He was very keen to come and, you know, aside from sort of me being here which obviously helps in terms of his familiarisation, he knew he was joining a massive football club. Most conversations I have with players who I bring in don’t take too much convincing, once they know what the size of this club is.”
Postecoglou had worked extensively with Mooy during his time as Socceroos head coach, with the 32-year-old midfielder playing a key role as Postecoglou guided Australia in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
Postecoglou was convinced that Mooy could offer value to Celtic, especially given they are also competing in the Champions League this season – adding more fixtures to an already packed schedule.
“In terms of Aaron, first of all he’s a good footballer, he’s somebody I knew well and I knew he could contribute here,” Postecoglou said. “And it’s great to have him as part of the football club. And yeah, he’s finding his feet now after getting his fitness up to speed, because he’d obviously missed preseason and hadn’t played a lot of football, but I think everyone can see now he’s sort of getting to a really good condition. And his football’s been really good over recent games.”
Having come off the bench at the start of the season, Mooy has started Celtic’s last two league matches and notched three assists in two wins. While Celtic fans were somewhat sceptical at the Australian’s signing in pre-season (perhaps understandably, given his lack of club minutes in 2022) he is certainly repaying the faith showed by his countryman.
Postecoglou is confident that the midfield maestro will be ready to play a key role in Qatar.
“With Aaron, he’s definitely on the way there (with form and fitness), his last few games for us have been excellent. With seven games to go, he can get plenty of football between now and then. If he’s in good physical condition I know Aaron can certainly make an impact and be a big influence.”
Mooy’s arrival followed the departure of a fellow Socceroos midfielder from Celtic in Tom Rogic. Rogic established himself as a crucial player for the club over the last seven years, making 272 appearances and winning countless trophies.
Postecoglou says Rogic just “needed a new challenge” – and opened up on the message he told the 29-year-old before last season.
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“With Tom again, he’s somebody I knew well and worked with in national teams,” Postecoglou said. “I was really keen to work with him in a club level because I hadn’t had the opportunity to do that. It was great last year and we had a fantastic year, but people need to understand he had he been here for pretty much his whole his whole career apart from his start at the Mariners.
“He felt like he needed a new challenge. We had good discussions during the year, and I could see that he just wanted to try something new before his career was over.
“I said to him, make sure his last year at this football club was a special one because that’s what he deserved. And that’s the way it ended up, it ended up in a championship and he played his last game in front of supporters. I think his status at the football club ended on a real positive note, which is the main thing.”
Rogic eventually ended up at second-tier English club West Bromwich Albion, where he reunited with manager Steve Bruce – the man who first brought him to Celtic in 2013. But Bruce was subsequently sacked after a run of poor results, with Rogic making just four appearances (one start) so far this season. He will be desperate for more minutes in the final weeks before Qatar.
But Postecoglou believes Rogic and Mooy, who have both represented the Socceroos more than 50 times and appeared at previous World Cups, can lead the charge in Qatar.
“I think we’re never going to be a nation that relies on one or two players. But certainly, they are two that have got the experience and both have the ability and the confidence in themselves that going to a World Cup, they certainly won’t be overawed by it and take on the challenge.
“I guess the key for both of them is that hopefully they’re both in good condition and playing well.”
Ange Postecoglou is returning to Australia this November with an exclusive new two show speaking tour: “An Evening with Ange Postecoglou – The Journey So Far” presented by TEG Live.
Tickets are available now via www.TEGLive.com.au