Tim Cahill is without question one of the brightest talents Australia has produced not just in football but sport. The passion and commitment to whichever shirt he puts on is the embodiment of everything we love in our athletes.
As is often the case in the heavy scheduling of professional football, conflicts arise between club and country. The talismanic midfielder cum forward has faced this pull since making his debut in March 2004 against South Africa.
More often than not his country won out but occasionally his club would, as it did when he joined New York Red Bulls back in July 2012 when he made himself unavailable for a friendly against Scotland.
“After I speak to Holger we’ll speak about the games , but I really need games while I’m here and I need to put everything into this and to make sure that I’m doing everything right to get fit,” Australia’s leading scorer told the media at his press conference when he joined New York Red Bulls.
“But…at the moment Red Bulls takes priority.”
Fast forward two years and there is no doubt where the priority lies now, and not everyone likes it.
Some fans have taken to social media expecting more from their Designated Player, who at around $USD3.5 million makes more than the rest of his team other than Thierry Henry.
Leading up to the World Cup Cahill missed four games while preparing with Australia and has struggled to live up to his outstanding form from last season when he played and started twenty nine league games, scoring twelve goals.
This season has seen a dip with a poultry two goals from twenty six games (19 starts), and the former Everton man’s international duties have been identified by some as the reason for this decline in form.
“I apologise to the Red Bull fans, which some of them don’t really understand, my country means a hell of a lot to me like their own countries would if they were asked to represent their country,” Cahill told US media.
“I am 34 now. I don’t need to worry about people [telling] me about international football.
“Likewise with the club, I had it at Everton, and David Moyes, one of the most influential managers in the world. If I could deal with it with him, no comment if it can’t be dealt with here.”
Red Bulls coach Mike Petke hasn’t spoken out directly about the Aussie’s role or future in the team but he has made tactical adjustments which have seen Cahill’s role, which last year was so important, diminished somewhat.
When questioned about team selection and tactics which saw Cahill relegated to the bench last month he basically told reporters point blank that getting results was his main concern.
“I put the selection process as the coach, which, the last time I checked, I make the decisions and I’m allowed to make the decisions,” Petke said.
“The selection process for tonight’s game went like this: I wanted to put the 11 players out that I felt could get us a result, and we got a result (1-0 win vs. Houston Dynamo).”
A move to a 4-2-3-1 formation has seen Petke prefer a central pairing of Dax McCarty and Eric Alexander with Peguy Luyindula in front of them. This midfield combination is what was used to great success in overcoming the high-flying DC United in the recent Eastern Conference semifinals over two legs.
There’s no telling what this means for the future of a player who has always given his all when out on the pitch but it seems now is as as good a time as any for one of our favourite sons to return home.
Speculation has linked Melbourne City and Western Sydney Wanderers to the combatitive midfielder – with both in need of a boost following a slow start to the current HAL season – but any club would be lucky to have a player who can give so much on and off the field. Cahill is up there with Harry Kewell for being able to steal a headline and crossover into the main stream.
In a league still establishing itself, a player with the profile and charisma of Cahill cannot be undervalued. He will draw people to the grounds and more importantly television sets.
Above all though he can offer a team a lot on the pitch. He’s still a superb athlete with amazing timing, has heading ability with few peers, plays with fierce determination, and offers positional versatility.
He isn’t the type of player to come somewhere for a holiday, or one last paycheque. Every time he crosses that white line you know you’ll get his all and he’ll bring that out in his teammates.
There is always the possibility he could call time on his distinguished career following the Asian Cup. After everything he’s achieved and given back to Australian football there is not much left to do so no one could blame him for wanting to move on to the next chapter.
It might be just the wishful thinking of a football tragic, the return of our prodigal son for his final curtain call where it all began, but it would be a fitting closing chapter to the story book career of the one and only, Tim Cahill.