Tim Cahill’s next step should be to Thailand

John Duerden John Duerden

With Australia legend Tim Cahill currently a free agent, John Duerden believes the Thai League 1 would be an ideal destination as his next port-of-call.

Wednesday was a big one in Asian football with two major departures. Nelo Vingada said goodbye to Malaysia and his job as head coach of the national team. From Malaysia to Melbourne and the news that Tim Cahill was splitting up from A-League club Melbourne City.

Malaysian fans will not be following the subsequent career of the well-travelled Portuguese boss with a great deal of enthusiasm or interest. He is just another in a growing list of tacticians who have come and gone without changing the fortunes of the Tigers.

The same can’t be said of Cahill in Australia. Fans and media – and not just in Australia – will be very interested in where the star will go next. His career has not been short of surprises. He is a genuine globetrotter in this the most international of sports.

It’s been a pretty full on couple of days – but I wanted to also say thank you to the FFA, the A-League, David Gallop, Steven Lowy and all the fans across the country for the opportunity to come home and play in Australia. It was a hell of a challenge that I haven’t taken lightly, and I wanted to make sure I was in the best physical condition for both my club and country so that I could contribute on and off the park. Meeting and being with fans from other clubs was fantastic, and even the banter with the fans from the Sydney clubs and cross-town rivals Victory always brought a smile to my face. Some of my priceless memories will be my first ever goal in the A-League against Victory, being sent off before I got on the pitch also against Victory, the Mariner’s ball boy moving the corner flag so I couldn’t do my celebration, and most importantly being able to help win the FFA Cup with my team. I’ll always do everything I can to try and make the game better. Travelling across Australia interacting with fans, photos, signing autographs has been really special as well. I will be doing all that I can to grow and care for our game and to be a good role model for the future of our game, whether I happen to be playing in Australia or overseas.

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England, the United States, China and Australia. There will be plenty of stories to tell when the old boots are hung up, thrown out or handed down. And that will be pretty soon.

Cahill is a fierce competitor but he can’t do much about the fact that, at 38, the end of his career can’t be far away. What is obviously a priority for the player is to go to the FIFA World Cup next summer.

Not many players go to four World Cups in their career. It is a special achievement. And Cahill is not – surely – going to be still punching corner flags by the time Qatar 2022 rolls around.

He still has the ability to win games as he showed with his crucial brace in that World Cup play-off second leg against Syria. If it wasn’t for the former Everton man, then the Socceroos would not be heading to Russia next June.

As soon as the deal was sealed, Cahill was hinting that he may leave Melbourne City in a search for regular playing time. And he has done just that.

“It’s never easy to say goodbye but it was great to win last weekend and make a contribution, and also to have the club sitting third in the league,” Cahill said in a statement.

“Qualifying for the World Cup has been a great adventure, and it would be a massive honour to represent my country in Russia. That will be my focus in the coming months.”

Spending 77 minutes on the bench, as was the case in City’s win at Newcastle Jets at the weekend, was not what Cahill wanted. With the national team currently without a coach, nobody knows how the new guy will see Cahill especially if he is not getting much playing time.

If he was going to leave, it had to happen around now. There is still time to settle with a new team. The question now is which team and which league?

Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat knows Cahill well and believes that he has his next move already sorted. He’s probably right. Cahill is not the kind of sportsman to leave a team six months before the World Cup without a plan in place.

There are sure to have been offers from around Asia. But the best option may just be Southeast Asia and especially Thailand. It is perfect.

As most know, Thailand boasts the highest standards of domestic football in the region. Teams such as Muangthong United and Buriram United are some of the biggest and best clubs in the whole of Asia on and off the pitch.

It could be a perfect place for Cahill. Technically, the level is excellent and it would keep the former Everton man on his toes in that respect. Physically, it is not quite so demanding, partly due to the climate (which is pleasant and far from from the frigid winters and hard pitches of East Asia), and that may be the ideal situation for an aging player in the build-up to the World Cup – tough enough to keep in shape for next June but not so much to burn out or get crocked.

Pre-season is starting soon in the country, though as Cahill is in the middle of the A-league, he could take a little break to recharge batteries. Arriving in January, Cahill would have five months with his new team, perhaps a chance to play in the AFC Champions league and a taste of a different kind of football and lifestyle.

It would also be good news for Thailand – or any Southeast Asian country. Cahill would, though you never know given what Indonesian clubs may get up to in the coming week, be the biggest name in Southeast Asia. There have been quite a few Aussies in Thailand in recent years and it would be fascinating to see how the player would perform. He would attract fans and column inches.

He would also score goals. That is what Tim Cahill does. The World Cup may be the player’s focus but for a few months at least, his interests may well coincide with those of a club in Thailand.