Melbourne City has strengthened its squad for the upcoming A-League season with the signing of former Brisbane Roar star Erik Paartalu on a four-year contract.
Amid speculation on Twitter that the club was poised to announce the capture of Socceroos cult hero Josh Kennedy, City has instead surprised many with the signing of Paartalu.
The defensive midfielder will be familiar to many A-League fans, as he was a mainstay in the powerful Roar teams that won back-to-back titles under now-Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou. In fact, Paartalu demonstrated his importance and durability by starting every game during those two campaigns.
[quote]By my count, City now has 15 players in its squad of 22 who are capable of playing in one position or another in midfield [/quote]
Paartalu remained a key part of Brisbane’s midfield following Postecoglou’s departure after the 2011-12 season, but he departed the club midway through the following season to take up a two-year deal with Tianjin Teda in China. A year in China was followed by one at Thailand’s Muangthong United, but he has now chosen to return to Australia with City.
On face value, it seems that Paartalu will step into the role vacated by Orlando Engelaar, the squad’s international marquee last season. While not as technically gifted at the Dutchman, Paartalu at 6’4” brings a solid presence and adds steel to City’s midfield, which also features other newcomers including Robert Koren and Aaron Mooy. While with Brisbane, Paartalu developed a reputation as one of the A-League’s most consistent performers. While never flashy nor a significant goal scoring threat – he found the net just eight times in his 79 appearances – the midfielder adroitly screened the back four and regularly launched attacks week in, week out.
City’s squad still has notable deficiencies in talent and/or depth other areas – left back, right back and goalkeeper to name a few – but manager John van ‘t Schip and company appear hell-bent on assembling the deepest and most talented midfield in the A-League. By my count, City now has 15 players in its squad of 22 who are capable of playing in one position or another in midfield: James Brown, Damien Duff, Mate Dugandzic, Ben Garuccio, Jonatan Germano, Jason Hoffman, Nick Kalmar, Robert Koren, Stefan Mauk, Jacob Melling, Aaron Mooy, Massimo Murdocca, Erik Paartalu, Iain Ramsay and Paulo Retre. Obviously, some of these players have been earmarked for other positions - Duff, Dugandzic, Garuccio, Hoffman and Ramsay stand out. But the squad has been quite clearly constructed from the inside out.
Show of faith
The length of Paartalu’s contract is also notable. I cannot recall any other player that’s signed a four-year deal, either with a new or existing club in A-League history. At 28, Paartalu should be entering his prime, and the long contract ties him to City through what should be his most productive years. The tenure obviously represents a significant show of faith from the club, but also from Paartalu, who obviously sees a bright future for both himself and City.
Socceroos on his mind?
Despite his consistent performances with Brisbane, Paartalu was largely unable to crack the Socceroos squad until the end of his tenure with Roar. He has since been capped twice by the national team, but with Postecoglou now in charge and the team in transition, that could all change if he rediscovers his Roar form.
Overall, the signing of a player with such pedigree in the A-League should be greeted with enthusiasm and excitement as City moves closer to kicking off the new season in Sydney. Only 26 days to go!
Oh, and I still fully expect City to announce Kennedy's capture. But we can wait for that.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What do you think of the signing?