People who wrote off one of Australian football’s most promising young players look likely to eat their words, as Daniel Arzani re-announces himself on the domestic scene.
The 23-year-old starred for Macarthur FC on Sunday in a 2-0 win over Adelaide, with a sparkling performance.
The news of his day out for the Bulls no doubt also made its way back to national coach Graham Arnold.
Arzani finding his way to Qatar is still difficult to comprehend, with the coach challenged by a host of selection headaches and plenty of players vying for positions. However, Arzani reminded everyone of just how talented and gifted he is with a stunning display that had the Reds’ defenders scrambling at the back whenever the diminutive midfielder made advances inside their penalty area.
Too many people forget the rare and raw talent Arzani displayed in early 2018 when he became the talk of the A-League with Melbourne City. Simply, he possessed a skill inherent in few Australian players; the ability to run directly at and take on defenders, using a powerful torso and hips in order to maintain balance and control of the ball in doing so.
I wrote at the time that it was unlike anything I had seen in a young Australian for some time.
That ability was noted far and wide, with Manchester City the club destined to add the Iranian-born Arzani to its stacked stable of players destined to be loaned out while their talent developed.
Sadly, Arzani’s star faded quickly, with a season-ending knee injury cruelling his opportunity to show the world his arsenal before he had the chance to fire a single shot.
In a journey that subsequently saw him pass through Celtic, Dutch club Utrecht, AGK in Denmark and Lommel SK in Belgium, Arzani managed just 28 matches in around four years.
Very much out of focus and something of the forgotten man when it came to national team selection, after having become the youngest Socceroo to ever appear at the World Cup in 2018, his failure to ignite leagues to where he ventured, injury aside, brought much commentary and opinion.
You remember the rumours, we all heard them.
Everything from Arzani’s father being something of an unsettling and overbearing figure in his career, a poor attitude that rubbed other players and coaching staff the wrong way, and a general perception that the Melbourne City junior was simply a smart-arse and just a little bit too big for his own boots.
The truth in all of that is probably indiscoverable and potentially based on the envy and ambition of others whose paths may have crossed Arzani’s for only a short period of time.
Without a doubt, Arzani would admit to not having been a perfect football professional as a teenager, very few are. However, the natural process of growth and maturity was not afforded him by many; those more keen to knock him off the pedestal that the domestic football world had placed him – one he never asked to be stood upon.
In retrospect, the fleet-of-foot attacker will look back at the last four years as a frustrating and sad time in his football life.
Yet he is back. Fit, fast, powerful and seemingly happy to be playing football for Macarthur FC.
After opening the scoring for the Bulls against the Reds on Sunday, the Arzani swagger was there.
He celebrates a little differently to most. There is rarely a sense of shock or surprise about a goal scored or one assisted, more an arrogant strut and a wink of expectation around his achievement.
That presence is what drew the world’s attention to him back in 2018 and a similar feeling currently circles Central Coast’s Garang Kuol, potentially the best teenager we have seen in the A-League since Arzani.
While plenty have been happy to sink the slipper into Arzani, call him overrated and label the hype that built him up as fabricated and undeserving, I never jumped shipped, believing that what I had seen him do in a Melbourne City jersey was transferable to bigger leagues.
That is of course yet to play out, however it was clear at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday that with a goal and brilliant assist, Daniel Arzani was the most lethal and influential player on the pitch.
If that remains the case over the next fortnight, Graham Arnold may have no choice but to include him in the squad for Qatar.