A “selfish” John Aloisi wants goal-machine Jamie Maclaren to play out his career in the A-League rather than again test himself at an overseas club.
Aloisi’s Western United has the tough task of shutting down the Melbourne City marksman in Saturday night’s grand final rematch at AAMI Park.
Maclaren last Monday became the first player in A-League history to score in nine successive matches when he netted a double in City’s 3-1 away win over Wellington Phoenix.
His double took his overall A-League goals tally to 132 in just 185 appearances.
Former United, Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar ace Besart Berisha’s A-League record goals total of 142 is well and truly in the sights of Maclaren, who has already scored 12 times in nine appearances this season to be on target for his fifth golden boot.
Once Maclaren surpasses Berisha, the question will be raised about what more he can achieve in the A-League.
At 29, he’s still in his prime and if he does want another shot at succeeding overseas, he will probably need to move sooner rather than later.
Maclaren spent part of his youth career at English club Blackburn Rovers and later had limited success during spells with Darmstadt 98 (Germany) and Hibernian (Scotland).
But Socceroos great Aloisi, who coached Maclaren at the Roar, said his former player did not have to prove himself overseas and hoped he remained in the A-League indefinitely.
“I’m not sure what his ambitions are or what his goals are, but … I’m being a little bit selfish here … I’d love for him to stay in the A-League because it’s great for the league and you need as many good players in the league as possible, and he’s definitely one of the best strikers, if not the best striker that we’ve ever had in the A-League,” Aloisi said.
“If he stays here, I’m sure that he will .. set a new high (for goals scored) that no one can ever break.
“That might be the way he’s looking at it. It’s hard to say what someone else’s goals are, but he’s definitely shown what he’s capable of doing and he’s shown it for a number of years now, not just this season.”
Maclaren, who has more than a year to run on his lucrative City deal, seems in no rush to return to an overseas club, despite not entirely ruling it out.
“I’m aware that in (the) January (transfer window) people are always going to say that there are rumours and that there’s interest (from other clubs), but if it doesn’t suit myself, or it doesn’t suit Melbourne City, then you’ll see me in the light blue shirt for more than a few years,” the Socceroos attacker said.
“I’m not really thinking about leaving this club in the short term. I’ve got this season and next season to worry about; my head is just down in the short term.
“I’m thinking about (Saturday) night, going out there and trying to get the three points against a resurgent Western United, whose former boss of mine, John Aloisi, will always try to stop me, which he’s done well on a couple of occasions.”
Aloisi said United’s defence needed to be “switched on for every second” of Saturday night’s match to nullify Maclaren.
“Even when you feel that he’s not involved, he’s moving. He’s always on the move, he’s always looking to see where he can receive the ball to score goals – he’s a great striker,” the United coach said.
“I was lucky enough to coach him, so I know him really well as a player, and as a person, and I loved working with him and it’s always difficult to coach against him, believe me. He’s one of those players who don’t give the centre-backs a rest.
“The main message for our centre-backs is just to be alive the whole time because ‘Macca’ is there, (and) he’s ready to pounce.
“If we can do that, then hopefully we can shut him out, but it’s never easy against him.”