Coveted Australian coach Joe Montemurro has revealed how close he came to taking charge of the four-time FIFA women's world champions United States before they gave up the ghost and turned to Macedonian Vlatko Andonovski instead.
The Arsenal women’s mentor was the top target to replace exiting Jim Ellis, with US Soccer officials making a formal approach for Montemurro in September.
But, after protracted discussions, Gunners bosses declined to release the Melbournian before season’s end from a contract that runs beyond 2022.
Plan B was enacted and Reign FC coach Andonovski was handed the USWNT baton two weeks back, leaving Montemurro, 49 - much to Arsenal’s relief - in situ.
“I’m ecstatic at Arsenal ... I love it here and we’re trying to do a good job and keep the momentum going,” said the trailblazing former Melbourne City W-League winner who led the Gunners to their first FA Women’s Super League title in seven years last season.
“But of course when you have someone of that nature, the world champions, knocking on your door you do have to consider the possibilities and maybe have a bit of a chat.
“But it just wasn’t going to work out contractually and all credit to Arsenal and everybody and I’ll be happily staying here for a while yet.”
The sticking point, as far as Arsenal were concerned, was US Soccer’s need to gain a quick release, with the Gunners simply not prepared to meet that timeline.
“There were formal discussions and I was flattered by the interest,” added Montemurro.
“But the whole thing was put to bed when it became obvious that it wasn’t going to be viable for US Soccer or Arsenal.”
Conjecture surrounding Montemurro’s future will likely ramp up mid-year after Ante Milicic departs the Matildas for expansion A-League club Macarthur FC.
He was high on FFA’s wish list prior to Milicic’s appointment after the messy dismissal of Alen Stajcic 10 months ago, and will doubtless come into contention again.
Having already guided Arsenal to the last eight of the UEFA Women's Champions League this season, Montemurro’s side sit second on WSL ladder after five matches, a point behind leaders Chelsea who appear set to sign Matildas star Sam Kerr.
Montemurro expects the striker to benefit - not just financially - from the impending move.
“Chelsea are one of the few teams with the sort of budget to bring in Sam and I’m sure she’ll keep growing as a player playing in Europe, where there are so many matches and such a good level of competition,” he said.
“It’s a step in the right direction to exposing Australian players to the reality of a proper 30 to 40-game season (which they don’t get in Australia or the US).
“It’s all about high end continuity and exposure to big game scenarios - all of which helps players in their performances with the national team.”