Somewhere in the deepest, darkest parts of the souls of Adelaide United’s detractors, a speck of light broke through last week.
It must have been a strange feeling for those people – a warmth and fuzziness they haven’t felt since the last time they had nothing to whinge about.
You see, July 5, 2019, will not just be remembered as the day Donald Trump re-created his country’s history by claiming the American army took control of the airports in the Revolutionary War of the late 1700s.
(Yes, I know it was July 4 in the USA).
This is the day Adelaide United made one of the biggest statements in its history – buying Riley McGree.
Maybe I’m overthinking it a little and this was simply a really good player becoming available and the club deciding to invest.
But Bruce Djite and Piet van Der Pol are smart individuals and they knew what this meant for the club, the fans and the haters.
Anyone who knows me well also knows that I was not Djite’s biggest fan when he played. I can’t shy away from those comments – many made publicly on the radio show I once hosted. I own it.
But, as an administrator, I have nothing but praise for him so far.
His “no BS” style is refreshing. He’s articulate, has the right level of brevity, smart and understands the game and our league.
Buying McGree is one of the most politically savvy decisions made by the club.
Allow me to explain.
Isaias’ move to Qatari side Al Wakrah hurt fans.
My understanding is that Isaias had an exit clause in his contract that was way under his market value.
So while the club did make some money from his sale, it would not have been what they would’ve wanted for him.
Once the deal was done, Adelaide’s hierarchy had a choice.
It could have done what most A-League clubs do when they’ve sold a player – put the money towards wages, or the bottom line, or even into the bank accounts of the owners.
Those who have set about trying to destabilise the owners and the club were expecting that: it would have proven their assertions that these “mysterious and sinister owners” were finally getting what they always wanted from Adelaide United – money.
Instead, United used some of that transfer fee (maybe all) to go out and buy a young South Australian who has talent to burn and a great future ahead.
In 2017, Adelaide lost McGree to Club Brugge for a nominal fee – about $100,000. The club never publicised a number but it’s available on TransferMarkt. The figure met a release clause in his contract which was signed before the youngster exploded onto the scene.
So, whatever Adelaide paid to get McGree to come home was enough to satisfy Brugge that they had made a return on their original investment.
And as news broke that Riley was back in red next year – and not on a loan or a free transfer, but rather he had been bought – even those who say they’re Adelaide fans, but are really just critics, couldn’t do anything other than praise the decision.
And just like that, United has shown its winning hand.
They nullified the naysayers who would’ve been staring blankly at their keyboards, wondering what else they could write on various platforms other than “good move Adelaide” and deciding if that warm, fuzzy feeling they were having was something they should speak to a health professional about.
But it doesn’t end there.
Because as Djite and McGree fronted the cameras for his official unveiling, Bruce could’ve gone through the motions knowing that he’d just proven so many doubters wrong.
Instead, he did something so unbelievably clever and well-articulated, I genuinely got up off my seat at home and clapped.
He told the truth.
When you watch player announcements in full, you expect to hear the same thing over and over.
The player says things like: “I’m delighted to be here”, “can’t wait to get started” and “the style of football/the club/the coach all really appealed to me” and so on.
The club official says things like: “We are delighted to have [insert name here] at our club”, “we think he’s the perfect fit for our team” and “we hope this is the start of a long career”.
All those things were said, except for the last one.
Djite actually said he didn’t want Riley to be at Adelaide in five years.
He wanted him back overseas, playing at a higher level and fulfilling his dream and potential.
You see, Djite knows that Adelaide will always be a selling club, like most, if not all, A-League clubs.
He’s already set the tone for a future move for Riley and no-one will be able to say we weren’t told it could happen.
But why would he say this? Because he’s the only player Adelaide United has ever sold twice (for combined fees of about $1 million mind you) and he understands the reality of the global giant that is football.
As fans, we will enjoy watching McGree play for us again. Adelaide will not stand in his way if he wants to go again but, this time, the fee will be more indicative of his talent and potential. And then they can re-invest that money in the next player.
Smart, politically savvy, courageous and honest.
It looks like the new Adelaide United has arrived.
Spiro Karanikos-Mimis is InDaily’s soccer columnist.
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