‘Big motivation’ that explains Chidiac’s surprise contract detail: ‘It was killing me’

Matildas star and last season's Julie Dolan Medallist Alex Chidiac is back in the Liberty A-League for Melbourne Victory. Watch the performances that made her a star and earned her a call up to the FIFA Women's World Cup.

There is no place like home for Alex Chidiac as the Matildas midfielder speaks to aleagues.com.au about her decision to return to the Liberty A-League, her experience abroad and that memorable World Cup.

It sounds outrageous but Alex Chidiac wasn’t sure if Melbourne Victory would want her back.

This is the reigning Julie Dolan Medallist and a Liberty A-League champion. However, there were doubts following an impressive recruitment drive that left the star-studded team stacked with the likes of Emily Gielnik, Elise Kellond-Knight and Emma Checker.

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“To be honest, I didn’t know if they would want me back because they had such a stacked squad,” she told aleagues.com.au ahead of Saturday’s showdown against last season’s Grand Finalists Western United.

“I was a bit nervous and I was like, ‘yeah I really want to come back, do you have a spot for me?’.

“I’m grateful that it feels like they do have a spot here. I’m able to slot into the team and hopefully continue to build things at Victory.”

Chidiac is back in Melbourne and back in the Liberty A-League after a challenging loan spell at Tigres UANL in Mexico and a difficult second stint with Racing Louisville in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

There is no place like home. Just ask the Australia international, who has signed a deal until the end of 2025-26.

It was only ever going to be a Victory reunion when she decided to end her time abroad for a return Down Under.

“I think it would be kind of silly to change things up given my past two seasons with the club and the success we’ve been able to have. I’ve just really enjoyed my time here and there was no real reason for me to leave,” said Chidiac, who won the 2021-22 Championship before being crowned the league’s best player last season.

“I’ve kind of built a bit of a life for me in Melbourne too. That was another thing to consider too.”

Chidiac and Victory appear to be a match made in heaven.

The 24-year-old has flourished in her two previous loan stints under Jeff Hopkins’ leadership and she credits the Victory boss for making the partnership so successful.

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“He’s always been a coach who’s wanted me at the club even when I was at other clubs,” Chidiac said.

“When I showed up to Victory first after playing in Japan and I was super low on confidence. I was actually quite scared to have my first session with the club. But just seeing how Jeff was with the players and how he was with me.

“He is just super understanding and someone I could really communicate to. He understood what I had been through and gave me lots time to find my form. He really trusted me and put that desire back into things.

“You just want to play for coaches like that. For him to show me all of that when I was at my lowest. Now I can hopefully continue to give back to him with performances on the pitch. That’s why it works because we have a really good relationship off the field too.”

Last season, Chidiac scored six goals in 13 appearances before she linked up with Racing Louisville heading into the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

She was not part of the Finals Series as Victory lost in the Semi Final.

So, is there unfinished business?

“Surprisingly not really,” Chidiac replied. “Obviously I would’ve liked to join the season at the beginning and really have clear goals set out for the season.

“But where I’m at at the moment, I’m coming off a year where once again I haven’t had a lot of football under my belt. The most games I had in a row was with Victory. I need to find that form again and get myself up with training and up for how we want to play. It might take a few games to get back into that.

“Hopefully I pick up on all of that quickly. I don’t think it will be too difficult given I’ve been with these coaches and players beforehand. There’s also that understanding it’s not going to be the exact same as last season. Now I know what the standard is and I can push myself to that when the time comes and I’m ready for it.

“For me, it’s just about getting as many minutes as I can and helping he team with what they’ve already been able to achieve this season.”

Chidiac is back in familiar surrounds after struggling for game time in the USA and Mexico.

After managing just 132 minutes of action in eight substitute appearances in the NWSL, she was loaned to Tigres but was on the outer in Liga MX Femenil.

“It’s obviously disappointing when you go overseas and don’t play and you don’t necessarily get reasons why you’re not playing,” Chidiac recalled. “So you’re in a constant loop of training over and over again.

“The one thing I learnt is how much I do just want to be playing, whatever the level. I do this because I absolutely love it. It’s my passion; outside of football, it’s watching football. I’m a big football fan, so to not play was kind of killing me.

“That big motivation to signing a longer-term deal – I want to get as many games in as I possibly can. I think I can be more than a squad player and someone that’s warming up or in the stands watching.

“I was itching to get back onto the field. Knowing what I was able to achieve with Victory, it was a smart decision to come back here.”

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She added: “It just got a point where it’s been too many years and too many clubs overseas where I haven’t played and haven’t been given a reason why. All of this is out of my hands, I have to make a decision that is best for me.”

The 32-time Matilda returns to the A-Leagues on the back of an historic World Cup that captivated the entire nation.

Chidiac was part of the Australia squad that reached the semi-final and finished fourth on home soil.

“It’s still a bit surreal to think about,” she said. “After living it every single day. We notice the hype more and more around the Australian public.

“Everyone knows who the Matildas are now which is really nice. We’re packing our stadiums and definitely leaving a legacy for those to follow. We have changed the mindset around Australian football and Australian women’s football in general.

“I’m hoping I can still play a part in that moving forward, especially in the A-League.

“There’s a hell of a lot of potential, especially with Australia being so multicultural and diverse. I think we can really bring the nation together through football.”

The success of the Matildas has translated to the Liberty A-League, with record-breaking crowds and Matildas returning home – Tameka Yallop (Brisbane Roar), Lydia Williams (Melbourne Victory), Gielnik (Victory), Cortnee Vine (Sydney FC), Emily van Egmond (previously Newcastle Jets on four-game stint) and now Chidiac.

“That was another reason why I wanted to come back to continue to help grow the game in Australia,” she said. “(To) show how good this league is and how good the players are.

“Hopefully continue to build that excitement. Get more fans, get bigger crowds to games. We’ve shown as a nation we can do that, that people show up at the Matildas.

“Essentially the A-Leagues are all the future Matildas you are going to see. If you support them at this level, it’s only going to build the game.”

Chidiac has emerged as a fan favourite and one of the most popular players within the Matildas.

There was a groundswell of support for her to feature more at the World Cup, having been limited to just 23 minutes in total throughout the tournament.

Chidiac isn’t “really active on social media” – her partner often “pulling the strings” with her approval. But it was hard for the popular Aussie not to be aware of the support of the public.

“As much I tried to stay away from it, it did get brought to my attention a couple of times,” she explained.

“Again, it was difficult for me because obviously I want to be out there playing but it’s not up to me at the end of the day. I was trying to do my best in training but you’re there for your team and you have to be a good teammate.

“You have to do things right by the nation. We’re at a World Cup. It’s not like you can play favourites or listen to what the fans want. He’s obviously come in with an idea with how he wants to play and we obviously performed really well at the World Cup.

“Of course I would’ve liked to have been part of it a bit more and get more minutes. But I’m grateful to have been part of the squad in general.”