Muscat tells A-League: ‘hold onto China’s coattails’

Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat has called on the Hyundai A-League to “hold onto China’s coattails” as the boom club look ahead to their own Asian Champions League campaign with a new Chinese sponsor.

On Wednesday, the reigning Hyundai A-League champions announced a new front-of-shirt sponsor for the 2016 ACL with Chinese investment company Greenwood Capital the club’s latest commercial partner.

China has been the focus of world football over the past month. 

Chinese Super League (CSL) clubs have been making massive waves in the January transfer window as teams have signed the likes of Jackson Martinez, Ramires and Gervinho for incredible sums of money. 

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Muscat reckons that investment can only boost the ACL and he hopes the A-League can benefit too.

“You can’t help but be drawn and be inquisitive as to what’s going on and who’s the next signing; not only here in Australia but in Europe people are now are standing up and taking notice,” Muscat said at Victory’s ACL launch.

Former Chelsea star Ramires.

“When [Arsenal manager] Arsene Wenger’s having to address it in his weekly press conference, you know that it’s capturing the imagination.

“How could it not be, if we’re honest with ourselves, because while China’s growing, we’ve got to hold onto their coattails and try and expand and grow with them.”

Victory will face a CSL club in Group G of the 2016 ACL after Shanghai SIPG defeated Muangthong United in a play-off on Tuesday.

Shanghai – home to ex-England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and former Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan – will visit Victory on the opening matchday on February 24. 

Muscat’s men will also come up against Gamba Osaka and Suwon Bluewings.

Clubs are allowed four imports in their ACL squads, with one of those spots restricted to foreign players from a fellow Asian Football Confederation (AFC) member.

With Victory’s five A-League imports from outside the AFC, there had been some speculation that Muscat would look to sign an Asian import. 

Melbourne Victory players celebrate Gui Finkler's opener against the Mariners.

Particularly if that player could come into the Big V’s A-League squad as a guest player – to add quality and depth in the ACL. But it won’t happen.

“It is a situation that I explored and unfortunately for many reasons, too many to sit here and mention this afternoon, it is increasingly difficult for a number of reasons,” Muscat said. 

Under Muscat, Victory have always been committed to attacking football but the 42-year-old coach added he may be more conservative on the continental stage, as they look to advance past the ACL group stage for the first time in five attempts.

“I don’t know about changing our style, so to speak, maybe altering it based on who we’re playing and if we’re home and away,” he said.

“But if we’ve worked so hard for a number of years on trying to get better at a certain style, and all of a sudden I asked the players to try and change that, you know, I’m probably relying on luck a little bit.”