Huddersfield Town’s Aaron Mooy: From A-League footballer to Championship star to possible Manchester City regular
It is a very modern story. A footballer is approached by his employers, proposing he change clubs. But not because they are looking to raise funds or rid themselves of an unwanted player.
Quite the opposite. Instead, the City Football Group suggested Aaron Mooy moved from Melbourne City for Manchester City last summer.
“They came up with the idea and I jumped at the opportunity,” the Australia international said.
Life in a global company has its benefits. He was able to swap sister clubs. The reigning PFA Footballer of the Year in his homeland is now a candidate for the unofficial award of the best player in Championship.
Mooy is excelling on loan at Huddersfield Town from Manchester City. He may help the promotion-chasing Terriers end their 45-year exile from England’s top flight. “That would be unbelievable,” he said.
Rewind three years and much of what has ensued for Mooy may be classified as credibility-defying. The club he joined in 2014 had been known as Melbourne Heart. But the City Football Group had bought an 80 per cent stake. They were being renamed, their colours changing to sky blue. Mooy found himself at the heart of the transformation, part of something bigger.
“They told us it would be changing drastically,” he recalled. “Everything now is of the highest quality. It was great for Australian football to have a big club that wanted to invest. Once we went to Abu Dhabi in an international break and they showed us around. When we had big games, we would get video messages from Manchester City players and coaches, from the captain Vincent Kompany, and Manuel Pellegrini, who was manager, wishing us good luck.”
The stardust was not just confined to the screens. David Villa joined on loan – “a very nice, down-to-earth guy,” – while Mooy became the team’s outstanding player after the World Cup winner’s departure to New York City. He set an A-League record of 20 assists last season, one he modestly attributed to “a lot of good strikers”.
Then the powerbrokers in the CFG came to Mooy with a suggestion. He had been at Bolton Wanderers as a teenager and played for St Mirren, but he feared his days in Europe may be confined to the past.
“You always think that the older you get, the smaller the chance,” he explained. Instead, he was transferred to City with all parties agreeing he should get first-team football elsewhere.
“From Day 1, the plan was to go out on loan,” Mooy said. “I like playing. For me, that is when I enjoy life.”
Clubs in different leagues were considered. A decision was easy when the exuberant manager David Wagner sold Huddersfield to Mooy. “Pretty early on, I met Huddersfield and had a chat with David and I had a good feeling,” he said.
Wagner had been Borussia Dortmund’s reserve-team coach. His best man was Jurgen Klopp. While Mooy is adamant there are no mentions of the Liverpool manager at Huddersfield, their characters and beliefs are similar.
“He is a very positive person and you can just tell by what people see on Saturday,” he said. “We like to keep the ball and when we do lose it, we want to win it straight back.”
It is gegenpressing, Huddersfield-style and has taken a team tipped for relegation in some quarters into the play-off places. Mooy has been fundamental, playing in a slightly deeper role than he did for Melbourne but bringing energy to the centre of the midfield.
He has been praised by Wagner and his parent club alike. “Someone from the club calls me every two weeks,” he explained. “The feedback is going well. They are happy with how I am doing.”
It raises the question of what happens next. A loan, he said, “was just for the first season and then to see what will be the next step”.
While City boast a formidable array of midfielders – Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and co – who may block his path to their team, one carrot would be to work with Pep Guardiola. “It would be amazing,” Mooy said.
A footballing career like few others may yet reach another peak.
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Updated: January 24, 2017 04:00 AM