Ritchie De Laet heads on loan down under
Transferring clubs from England to Australia is quite rare in football. Aston Villa's Ritchie De Laet apparently doesn't mind taking the road less travelled. The 29-year-old right back accepted a loan to Melbourne City for the upcoming A-League season. What does the move entail for the Belgian?
De Laet began his career at Royal Antwerp, the biggest club in his hometown. He appeared on Premier League rosters with Manchester United and Stoke City but not often on the pitch. His career developed into a series of loan deals. Most memorable is his time at the King Power. In 115 games for Leicester, he scored four times.
The Belgian journeyman joined Villa in 2016, where his playing time was again limited. More loans, then. The first sent him home for a spell. he played six times for Royal Antwerp before returning to England. Melbourne City is the eighth loan spell of his career. Unused at Villa Park, he must've felt like he was halfway around the world during matches.
Ahmed Elmohamady and Manchester United loanee Axel Tuanzebe made De Laet expendable. Steve Bruce won't lose sleep over his situation at right back. De Laet had every reason to accept an assignment Down Under.
So, what is happening in Melbourne? City are great rivals with Melbourne Victory. The season begins with the derby. Victory are the current and all-time champions. They've won it four times in the division's 14-year history. City are yet to win the title in their four-year history. Finishing third last term was their best effort.
Warren Joyce is the head coach. The former Hearts manager gave De Laet his professional debut at Antwerp when the right-back was just 16-years-old. The Belgian defender ought to be cheered to see a familiar face. The club's most Euro-friendly players are Anthony Caceres and Luke Brattan, loanees from Manchester City.
Other foreigners include Dutch and Italian centre-backs Bart Schenkeveld and Iacopo La Rocca. Florin Berenguer is a French left-midfielder, Bruno Fornaroli an Uruguayan forward. Rangers and St.Johnstone fans should know Michael O'Halloran. The Scottish right winger joined City earlier this year.
City Football Group is nothing if not ambitious. Their A-League representatives are no different even if they are so remote. De Laet has an opportunity to be involved in a title run. The campaign begins in just over a month. The Belgian arrives in time to acclimate himself to new surroundings, come to know his teammates then jump in with both feet for the derby. The game takes place at the AAMI Park, aka the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium. Like San Siro, it's home for both sides.
De Laet bought himself a nice way out of England. No league matches for a few more weeks and a chance to play in Oz. As long as he doesn't make a dog's breakfast of it like a right galah, he won't end up in the woop woop again.