Not every player in the world has a similar career path. While some do, as they go on developing in their own country, others seek experience from elsewhere before making it big. Ask Riley McGree, he will tell you that the alternate paths to success will always work. After all, that’s what he did in his career.
Currently at A-League side Adelaide United, McGree’s path to the current situation was a winding one. After failing to break into the Adelaide first-team as a teenager back in the summer of 2017, McGree was offloaded to Belgian giants Club Brugge. For someone who is Australian by nationality, that would have come as a blow for McGree.
During his spell in Belgium, McGree couldn’t make a single first-team appearance for Brugge. Instead of playing in the Jupiler League, the midfielder was loaned out to two A-League clubs in Newcastle Jets and Melbourne City in successive seasons.
It was a big shot at redemption for the youngster, who was yet to make his debut for the Australian Under-23s side till 2018.
The stint at Newcastle saw McGree play just ten games in the A-League. Even in that limited period, he shone and scored four goals while picking up one assist for the Jets. Even in the A-League Final series, he got a goal while playing two games.
Despite the impression he laid behind at Newcastle, it wasn’t enough for the Brugge side. Another loan move back home followed. This time, it was Melbourne City. And McGree made an even bigger impression for the club.
In 26 league games for the side, he got seven goals and four assists. He did play once in the Final series, but didn’t score or assist. But he made an impact- doing just what he was expected to do for his development in the long-run.
A move back to Adelaide followed in the summer of 2019- a permanent one. He was going back to the club that made him and was ready to play regularly for them now. Not just that, but McGree has grown into stature so much that he now a key fixture of the Adelaide side.
This season, McGree has made 19 appearances in all competitions for the side. He has picked up an impressive tally of 11 goals, while also getting six assists. This is his highest goal contributions tally in the career, with it coming when he’s been a central midfielder for a majority of times.
Recently, Adelaide United boss Gertjan Verbeek praised McGree’s abilities not long ago. He told reporters: “He is so strong and so fast and so hungry … he is doing a great job.”
Former Socceroos player Robbie Slater said of McGree on Fox Sports: “He’s past the talent stage, he’s now a crucial player.”
While it is a bit of a surprise that McGree is yet to play for the senior side, he is very close. The 21-year-old was on the bench for the men in Yellow against Iraq and United Arab Emirates in Australia’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers. That is a sure-shot sign that his debut isn’t too far away.
For a player who’s contributing to a high number of goals regularly, that will come very soon. And the manner in which McGree’s career has grown shows that acquiring experience and appreciation from abroad can work wonders.
As things stand, the future is bright. For someone who is still 21, a big European move might not be too far away either.