Australia star Aaron Mooy on the World Cup and the near move to Saudi Arabia

Australia star Aaron Mooy on the World Cup and the near move to Saudi Arabia
Aaron Mooy almost joined Saudi Arabia club Al-Nassr in 2015. (Getty Images)
Updated 07 June 2018

Australia star Aaron Mooy on the World Cup and the near move to Saudi Arabia

Australia star Aaron Mooy on the World Cup and the near move to Saudi Arabia
  • Midfielder almost joined Al-Nassr in 2015
  • Now he is being coached by former Green Falcons boss at the World Cup

MANCHESTER: Big names and big reputations will not faze Aaron Mooy when he steps out for his World Cup debut.
Whether it is a French side featuring Paul Pogba or a Christian Eriksen-led Denmark, the Australian will be ready for his latest challenge.
Mooy played a starring role in helping unheralded Huddersfield Town remain in the Premier League. Now the midfielder is plotting a way out of World Cup Group C for the similarly unfancied Socceroos.
On their return to the top flight after a 45-year absence, Huddersfield famously beat Manchester United 2-1 at home with Mooy getting one of the goals. He then patrolled the midfield as the Terriers gained two battling draws at champions Manchester City and Chelsea to avoid relegation.
“We’ve played against the best teams, the best players so there’s no fear,” Mooy told Arab News. “Good players, but they are human and no one likes it when you are aggressive and make it hard for them. That’s just what you have to do. You have to beat them, it’s the game of your life. It doesn’t matter if people write us off. I don’t think about what people say. It’s all about what we do on the pitch that matters. We just have to try to reach the goal. You don’t know how many times you get to go to a World Cup, so I’ll be treating it like it’s my last.”
Mooy’s career has been shaped by a fighting spirit and ambition to succeed.
Brought up by his Dutch mother, Sam, after his parents separated when he was two, he was spotted by Bolton Wanderers at 14. A year later he left his home in Sydney to try to make it at the highest level.
A serious knee injury curtailed his progress at Wanderers and he was released in 2010 without gaining a professional contract. A similar struggle followed at Scottish side St. Mirren, where he battled injuries and relegation, and he returned to Australia with West Sydney Wanderers two years later.
That gave him the chance to regroup and re-establish himself, with two runners-up finishes in the Grand Final earning a move to Melbourne City where he more than justified his standing as a marquee player.
With Melbourne under the umbrella of the City Football Group, Mooy’s qualities brought him to Manchester City where they initially sent him on loan to Wagner’s Town side in 2016 to get more experience.
Instead, his spell was so successful the Terriers, promoted to the Premier League, paid a club record £10 million ($13.3 million) to sign him permanently last summer.
Had he stayed with Pep Guardiola’s City, he might have played a part in their record-breaking championship season. But he is not one for regrets, just like when a lucrative move to Saudi Arabia did not materialize in 2015. Al-Nassr made Melbourne a £2 million offer. “When I was looking to leave Australia that offer came in,” he said. “I was 25, I was thinking I’m getting older, to look at it as a good financial move or should I wait and hold out if something comes up at the end of the season. It’s a good job I didn’t do it as look where I am now.
“I’ve enjoyed it at Huddersfield. Yeah there was pressure this season. It was the first season for all of us coming into this league and you don’t know what to expect, just try to adapt and do as well as you can.
“You learn lots of stuff compared to last season. You are always learning and pick up as much as you can. I want to go higher and look forward to next season.”
But first he will relish showcasing his talent at football’s showpiece tournament — and working with former Saudi Arabia coach Bert van Marwijk after he replaced Ange Postecoglou.
“He looks like he has a lot of knowledge, wants to win,” adds Mooy of the Dutchman, who led Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final where they lost to Spain. “It’s not about playing a certain way, but winning and I’m happy with that.
“Definitely it gives me a lift that Huddersfield are still in the Premier League. I didn’t want to be going into the World Cup going down. Staying up is an amazing achievement for the club and I can now go to the World Cup free of mind and have a real go. This is what I dreamed of as a kid, pretty much, playing in the top league and going to a World Cup.
“The main tournament I remember was in 2002 in Japan and South Korea, the one with Ronaldinho and Brazil. I watched all of the games in that one. I just wanted to be a footballer when I was growing up, had lots of heroes, moved on from one guy to another, I wasn’t loyal. But they were all midfielders, (Zinedine) Zidane, (David) Beckham, those guys.”
Australia teammate Tim Cahill was another. The 38-year-old former Everton hero is preparing for a remarkable fourth consecutive World Cup.
“I looked up to Tim for what he’s achieved,” says Mooy. “He’s had a great career and everyone in Australia looks up to him for what he’s done. When you are around him you pick up stuff. His positivity and attitude is just unbelievable. He’s fearless too, yeah. That’s his greatest asset.”
With Mooy and Cahil working in tandem, the midfield might be Australia’s greatest asset, too.