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Socceroos’ future is bright amid historic Aussie takeover of world’s top five leagues: Roo Radar



The Premier League campaign is over for another year – and while Ange Postecoglou and Mile Jedinak were flying the Australian flag as coaches for Tottenham Hotspur, there were no Aussie men on the field.

It’s a different story, of course, in the women’s top flight in England – the Women’s Super League – with 14 Australians playing there this campaign.

But back to the men. In Europe’s top five leagues (England, Germany, Italy, Spain, and France), just one Socceroo, Denis Genreau, appeared this season for France’s top-flight Toulouse.

Cristian Volpato, the Sydney-born starlet who has not yet decided whether to represent Australia or Italy at the senior international level, also featured in Italy’s top tier with Sassuolo.

It’s a sad decline from the days of Aussies like Aaron Mooy and Maty Ryan regularly featuring in the Premier League. But the good news is that next season things could be different.

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A flurry of Socceroos have earned promotion to the big five leagues, leading Socceroos coach Graham Arnold to say yesterday: “For the national team in the future, it should be great for us.”

And there’s a host of up-and-coming youngsters at top-flight teams who will be hoping to crack the senior sides.

Remarkably, when the new season begins we could see as many as 20 Aussies on the books at clubs in the five biggest leagues in world football.


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Genreau in action against Roma in a friendly last year.Source: AFP


Three Australians secured promotion from the Championship this season: Cameron Burgess and Massimo Luongo with Ipswich Town, and Harry Souttar with Leicester City – the latter team winning the second tier.

Burgess, 28, was an ever-present for the Tractor Boys this season, playing 40 games and becoming a brick wall in defence for a team that lost just six of 46 league matches. He burst into the Socceroos squad only in September 2023, but has already become arguably the nation’s first-choice centre-back. His three-year contract at Ipswich is now up, but the club has an option to extend that for one more year. At a minimum, that looks like a certainty at this point – but a new long-term deal is also well and truly on the cards after a stellar season.

Cameron Burgess (C) celebrates a goal in what has been a spectacular promotion season.Source: Getty Images

Luongo, now 31, played 43 of the team’s 46 league games, starting the vast majority of those in the midfield. After earning a recall to the Socceroos last October and November after a four-year-exile, he retired from international football in December last year ahead of January’s Asian Cup. After 45 caps and six goals for the green and gold over a long career, Luongo wanted to focus on ensuring Ipswich earned promotion to the Premier League – and fair enough too.

It’s been a remarkable career renaissance for the Aussie, who looked to be sliding away from the top echelons of global football just 18 months ago. He joined Ipswich in January 2023 on a six-month deal, then helped them get promoted to the Championship. That earned him another one-year deal, and by this January, he signed yet another contract with Ipswich. That runs for next season with the option to extend another year.

Signing three contracts with the club in just over 12 months shows how impressive his form revival has been, and he’s earned the ultimate prize of finally playing in the top flight – 12 years after he came so close to debuting in the Premier League when he was twice an unused substitute for Tottenham.

The big question now is whether Luongo will reverse his international retirement and rejoin the Socceroos on the road to the 2026 World Cup. It’s unlikely. But based on form he would undoubtedly be welcomed back into the green and gold fold by coach Graham Arnold.

Luongo has been stellar this season.Source: Getty Images

The situation with Harry Souttar is far less rosy. The towering centre-back has been in virtual exile at Leicester this season as they topped the Championship, playing just three league games all season (one start).

Not that it has had an impact on his Socceroos’ minutes – he’s played every minute of the eight games since September and has been picked for Australia’s matches against Bangladesh and Palestine next week.

It’s the perfect opportunity for Souttar to put himself in the shop window.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said: “Harry is obviously one that I will sit down with when he gets here and see what’s happening because it’s important.

“Not just for us, but also for Harry Souttar that he sorts out his club career and gets back playing because it’s gone on a bit too long now.”

Souttar’s contract at the Foxes doesn’t expire until mid-2028, but he’ll be desperate to seal a transfer that can offer him regular minutes, barring the unlikely scenario that Leicester sell either of their starting centre-backs Jannik Vestegaard or Wout Faes.

Will he move to a Premier League rival?

He’s just 25 years old and still has his best years ahead of him, but after a year on the sidelines it’s unlikely that a top-flight club will immediately make him a starting centre-half, meaning he could well end up on the bench. It’s a high-risk, high-reward transfer window ahead.

A move to Scotland to join brother John at Rangers was mooted in January but didn’t eventuate – but in order to get immediate playing time, heading to Scotland or back to the Championship seems a safer bet.

Despite his lack of club minutes, Souttar continues to impress for the Socceroos.Source: Getty Images

While those three Socceroos stars headline the list of Australians likely to play in the Premier League next season, there’s a host of up-and-comers on the books of big clubs.

The most likely to earn his chance this season is Joe Gauci at Aston Villa. 23-year-old Gauci signed for the Premier League’s fourth-place finishers in February from Adelaide United on a deal initially worth nearly $2.5m.

He’s behind the 2022 World Cup winning goalkeeper, Argentina’s Emiliano Martinez, who also won the Golden Glove at that tournament as well as the being named The Best FIFA Goalkeeper in 2022 and winning the Yashin Trophy in 2023.

But finishing fourth in the Premier League means Villa will now play in the Champions League as well as two domestic cups (the FA Cup and League Cup).

Their hectic schedule means Gauci will fight 34-year-old Robin Olsen for back-up duties – and with injuries always a possibility, the rising Australian talent could even get a chance in the Premier League. Olsen, for example, played five league games this season.

And Gauci has the chance to put his name up in lights in a fortnight when Socceroos captain Maty Ryan is rested for the matches against Bangladesh and Palestine – meaning Gauci is all-but-certain to start both fixtures.

Joe Gauci will be hoping for minutes at Aston Villa this season.Source: Getty Images

21-year-old Cameron Peupion is another player on the fringes of a Premier League side. He’s at Brighton and Hove Albion, and he’s already played once in the league – back in May 2023.

This season, he went on loan to League One side Cheltenham Town but struggled for minutes and was recalled in January, where he started for Brighton in both the League Cup and FA Cup. He was also on the bench (but unused) for six Premier League matches. Another loan move is possible, but with a new coach incoming, he’ll have the chance to impress in pre-season and push his case to stay with the first team.

Cameron Peupion (R) of Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup against Wolves.Source: Getty Images

Brighton also have a talented 19-year-old Australian goalkeeper in Steven Hall on their books, who joined from Adelaide United in January and has so far played two games in the Premier League 2 (underage/reserves competition). He’s on a deal until 2027 – so there’s plenty of time for him to rise up the ranks.

Another youngster to watch out for is Fulham’s Tyrese Francois. The 23-year-old has represented them twice in the league before, coming off the bench in the last game of the 2020-21 season and again in the second game of the 22/23 season.

This year, he made their PL bench five times in the first half of the season and picked up substitute appearances in the FA and League Cups before being sent on loan in January to Vejle BK in Denmark’s top tier.

He’s made 15 appearances there including starting their last 12 games. Now he’ll head back to Fulham, who finished 13th in the league this season. The young Aussie will be hoping to carry his strong form back from Denmark and into next season’s Premier League … and maybe even make that long-awaited first start.

It was all going so well for young box-to-box midfielder Alex Robertson this season. Sent on loan to Portsmouth from Premier League champions Manchester City, he became one of the first names on the team sheet at and drew huge praise as he guided them to the top of the table by the New Year. There were rumours that clubs like Everton were interested in a permanent transfer.

Then he tore a thigh muscle and his season was over – though his loan club went on to win League One and be promoted to the Championship for next season.

The 21-year-old already has two caps for the Socceroos and is viewed as an immense talent, but breaking into City’s stacked squad is a tall order. His serious injury was a major setback, but a transfer isn’t out of the question, nor is another loan move.

Robertson impressed for the Socceroos in 2023 before an injury setback.Source: AFP

Speaking of loan moves, that’s the expectation when it comes to Garang Kuol for the upcoming season. The teen talent has had a torrid time of things since signing for Newcastle from the Central Coast Mariners.

This season, he was sent on loan to Dutch side Volendam – renowned for playing youngsters. But then they sacked their chief and their coach in December, and Kuol has played just 32 minutes in 2024. Ouch.

He debuted for Newcastle last Wednesday in a friendly against Tottenham at the MCG, coming on to rousing reception from the Aussie fans before scoring a penalty in the shootout. He then earned his first start against the A-League All Stars, but failed to impress.

Manager Eddie Howe said after the first game that the young forward will be sent on loan again next year.

“It’s always very difficult to say for certain what’s gonna happen with a player at this stage because there’s a long way to go before the season starts,” Howe said.

“But possibly another loan spell for him I think will be important.

“He’s had a couple of loan spells now but I think he needs the next one to be a successful one.

“I think he needs the next one to be successful and we need him to play more game time and hopefully that’ll happen.”

Simply put, he needs minutes – and plenty of them – to continue his development and get him in the frame for Premier League action. That’s a fair way away at this point, but a strong pre-season could deliver a surprise.

Garang Kuol of Newcastle United FC in action during the exhibition match against the A-League All Stars.Source: Getty Images


The German Bundesliga is also certain to see Australians in action next season. Socceroos midfield veteran Jackson Irvine captained FC St Pauli to the top of the second tier and promotion to the top flight in recent weeks. He plays alongside Connor Metcalfe, who has become one of the first names on the team sheets for the Socceroos in the last 18 months. 31-year-old Irvine had six goals and nine assists in 27 league games this season – an impressive output from a midfielder, while 24-year-old Metcalfe had three goals and five assists in 30 appearances, mostly on the wings. The pair have been crucial to both their team and Australia’s hopes, so expect plenty of minutes for the dynamic duo next season.

Irvine and his teammates were mobbed by pitch invaders after winning Bundesliga 2.Source: Getty Images

Nestory Irankunda, viewed as one of the most gifted Australian youngsters in decades, sealed a record-breaking transfer to European giants Bayern Munich in November last season – where he’ll head after he impressed for the A-League All Stars last week against Newcastle. The 18-year-old attacker finished his time at Adelaide United with eight goals and six assists in 25 appearances this season, taking his overall tally in the A-League to 16 goals and eight assists in 60 games. Still a raw talent who has struggled at times with his emotions and the immense weight of expectation on his shoulders, Irankunda has just been called up to the Socceroos and is expected to debut against Bangladesh or Palestine.

He is likely to start out in Bayern’s reserve team or go out on loan. But Bayern will have a new coach next season – relegated Premier League side Burnley’s Vincent Kompany – and there’s precedent for an A-League star to break into the first team surprisingly quickly.

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That was the case with New Zealand’s Sarpreet Singh, who signed from Wellington Phoenix in July 2019. He played a couple of matches with the senior team in pre-season friendlies, then was sent to the reserve team (which plays in Germany’s third tier). After impressing there, he debuted in the Bundesliga in December 2019 – less than six months after signing for the club. So the opportunity for a rapid rise to the first team is there for Irankunda … if he can take it.

Irankunda was excellent against Newcastle, with an assist and a key role in another goal in the 8-0 win.Source: Getty Images

But Irankunda won’t be the only Aussie at Bayern Munich next season. Goalkeeper Anthony Pavlesic is only 18 and has a long way to go to reach the elite, but a two-and-a-half week trial earned him a transfer to Bayern last June. He’s been playing for their under-19 team – coincidentally 19 times this season. And he also made an appearance for the reserve team in October. The teen gloveman is an immense talent, but barring a host of injuries he’s unlikely to break into the senior side for another season or more.

One Aussie most fans may not have heard of yet is Rawley St John, a Sydney FC academy product who earned a massive move to VfB Stuttgart last July. Stuttgart this season finished a stunning second in the Bundesliga, ahead of Bayern Munich but behind a rampaging Bayer Leverkusen. St John has been playing for the under-19 team, but the gifted midfielder just turned 19 this week and will be hoping to rise up the ranks this season, the final one on his contract at the German club.

Versatile wide man Jacob Italiano is also at a top flight club, playing with Borussia Mönchengladbach. The 22-year-old joined there from Perth in 2019 and has since gone on to play 104 games for their reserves team, but is out of contract. A move could be on the cards.

Jacob Italiano playing for the Olyroos at the U23 Asian Cup in April.Source: Getty Images


As previously mentioned, Denis Genreau was the only Socceroo to feature in a top-five league this season. He played plenty of minutes last year to help Toulouse get promoted to France’s Ligue 1, and started this season strongly before injuries effectively ruined his season – seeing him not play in the league from November until the final game of the season last week. Having turned 25 this week, the five-cap Socceroo still has a year to go on his contract and will be hoping that a full pre-season gets him back into regular first-team action.

This year, Australian fans will be hoping for more Socceroos to join him in playing in Ligue 1.

Mohamed Toure, who plays for Reims, spent the season on loan at second tier Paris FC in an attempt to get match minutes. He scored in just his second game for his loan club, but like Genreau was then cut down by injury. He finished the season with just 175 minutes across 11 matches, and that solitary goal. He played three Ligue 1 games for Reims in his first year at France, but another loan move for the young striker who just turned 20 seems probable.

He has made just one appearance for the Socceroos so far, last October, but hopes are high that he can rediscover his scoring form and be a long-term number nine in the green and gold.

His older brother Al Hassan also plays in Ligue 2, while younger brother Musa has been linked to a transfer to Ligue 1 by FTBL in recent weeks – though at 18 is also likely to spend time in the reserves or on loan before breaking into the first team.

Toure showed flashes of his potential with the Olyroos at the U-23 Asian Cup.Source: Getty Images


Rising Socceroos centre-back Alessandro Circati, just 20, played a key role in earning Parma promotion to Serie A this season.

The Italian-born star, who has one Socceroos cap but is included in the upcoming squad, joined Parma in 2021 on a long-term contract until 2027. But he quickly earned a spot in the senior side and has already played 55 games for the team, including 32 this season as they returned to the top tier for the first time since being from Serie A in 2020/21. He’s expected to remain a key figure in the first team when the new season commences – though there were rumours of a Premier League transfer in January.

“We played him against New Zealand and his maturity for a young boy was outstanding. We gave him that debut cap next to Harry Souttar and he’s got quality,” Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said yesterday.

“He’s done very well for us but it’s the club form and the club qualities that are the great things about the future of the Socceroos. With him getting promoted into Serie A, he’s going to play against some of the best strikers in the world and we’re going to benefit from that in the long run.”

He added: “We have Alessandro playing in Serie A next season which is incredible for the nation. And that was one of the most important things. We get rewarded with those types of things as a nation when the players are doing well at their clubs and playing at the highest level.”

Alessandro Circati before making his Socceroos debut last October.Source: Getty Images

Another Italian Australian in Serie A is Cristian Volpato, who debuted for heavyweights Roma back in December 2021 under legendary manager Jose Mourinho. Mentored by all-time great Francesco Totti, the so-called ‘King of Rome’, Sydney-born Volpato has been the subject of a long and dramatic tug of war between Italy and Australia over his international allegiances, which included Volpato turning down representing Australia at the 2022 World Cup. This international window, he is representing Italy’s Under-20s instead of the Socceroos.

“I’ve been in touch with a Christian and his mother, and the kid has chosen to play for Italy in this camp in under 20s in a tournament,” Arnold said on Wednesday.

“I’m always in contact and I’m encouraging him to play for Australia, but at the same time the kid has to want to, and his mum and his dad have to want that as well.”

Socceroos fans are still hoping the 20-year-old attacking midfielder opts for the green and gold.

He left Roma, where he played 14 games for the senior side, to join Serie A rivals Sassuolo in June last year for €7.5 million. He played 25 games in all competitions this season, largely off the bench, with one goal and one assist.

Having come through at Roma under legendary coach Jose Mourinho before moving to Sassuolo, hopes are high that Volpato will play for Australia.Source: Getty Images

Sassuolo finished second-last and will be relegated to Serie B next season – meaning Volpato will need a transfer if he wants to continue playing in the top flight.

It’s likely that Volpato will be allowed to leave, given he fell out favour in the latter stages of the season when the club replaced their coach in a bid to avoid relegation, although he did start their final game of the season.

He has been linked to clubs in Serie A, as well as Spain’s top division, La Liga – which would also make him Australia’s only player in that competition.

Another young gun is 19-year-old Sebastian Esposito, who made a stunning move from Melbourne City to Serie A side Lecce in December despite never playing for City’s senior side. But the physically strong and aerially talented centre-back has plenty of potential – and he’s been on the bench for the senior team five times this season while playing 19 games for the under 19-team – including 18 straight where he played the full match. He was a standout for Australia’s under-20s team in a pair of matches last year, and looks one for the future.


Premier League: Cameron Burgess, Massimo Luongo, Harry Souttar, Cameron Peupion, Joe Gauci, Steven Hall, Tyrese Francois, Alex Robertson, Garang Kuol

Bundesliga: Jackson Irvine, Connor Metcalfe, Nestory Irankunda, Anthony Pavlesic, Rawley St John, Jacob Italiano

Ligue 1: Denis Genreau, Mohamed Toure

Serie A: Alessandro Circati, Cristian Volpato, Sebastian Esposito.

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