The recent career crisis faced by Danny Vukovic as he endeavored to pursue his dream of playing overseas is something that all Australian footballers can learn from. Mike Cockerill’s recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald summarises the issue well.
Read on for Mike’s full article.

The headline read: ”Danny Vukovic stunned”. Why? Turkish club Konyaspor dudded Vukovic this week when they decided he didn’t fit into their plans after all. Three-year contract? Who cares? Bring on the FIFA disputes process. A process bogged down by the weight of claims and one which – at any given time – usually involves an Australian or two.

If Vukovic does go back to training with his old club, Central Coast Mariners, while he tries to sort out his future before this month’s transfer deadline, he should have a chat to Joshua Rose. The Queenslander couldn’t play in round one because his Romanian club hadn’t produced a release despite not having paid him for months. Every year, the A-League is full of players who have been overseas and got burnt. Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, sometimes Central and South America. Anywhere, any time.

The players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia, has become a well-oiled machine in getting Aussies through the dramas because it has had to.

”What’s happened to Danny highlights to other Aussie players about signing contracts with overseas clubs and to be well aware of all contracts they sign,” PFA boss Brendan Schwab says. Fact is, Australian players will always want to go overseas. For two decades it was, above all, a legitimate career choice. For the past five years, since the A-League began, it has become more of a financial choice. But now, even that has changed.

Why are foreigners suddenly beating a path to the A-League door? Because the global football economy – especially in Europe – is starting to collapse. Factor in the improved exchange rate, and the money on offer and the A-League is looking a lot better than it was. And, more importantly, it has a reputation for stability. By and large – with possible exception of those players chasing back pay from North Queensland Fury – you get what you are owed. The PFA is desperate to win its case against the Fury, not only for the individuals involved, but to restore the A-League’s reputation as an island in a sea of sharks.

Which brings us back to Vukovic. You can’t blame him for being tempted by Konyaspor’s interest. But you do wonder how much homework was done. The weeks dragged on, he was given no definitive answer about whether he would be included in the club’s quota of foreigners, and the Mariners didn’t get their transfer fee. And now it’s all gone pear-shaped.

There is a lesson here that continues to be ignored. A lesson players, their clubs and their agents clearly have to learn the hard way. The world has changed. Australia has a fully professional, largely secure, domestic competition. The A-League is directly connected to Asia, and is a shop window to the world. Look for opportunity, by all means, but only when the circumstances and the timing are right. In the old NSL, there was an urgency to head overseas in order to forge a professional career. That urgency has gone – the grass is not always greener elsewhere.

When FFA technical director Han Berger lambasts clubs for not giving youngsters a free ride into the first team, and insists the A-League should simply accept its role as a feeder league, he’s kidding himself. A feeder league for who? Turkey? Romania? Belgium? The A-League is what it is – a young league searching for its place in the world. No one yet knows where that is. And until the dust settles, the players are best advised not to jump at any offer that comes along.