Title-winning Arsenal Women’s coach Joe Montemurro has urged top Matildas talents to ditch the US and chase contracts in Europe to fast-track their development from a “real football perspective”.
With skipper Sam Kerr already linked with a lucrative switch to Chelsea, expat Aussie Montemurro - who led the Gunners to last season’s Women’s Premier League crown - believes the likes of Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso and company should be looking to jettison their dual roles in the W-League and National Women’s Soccer League in favour of maximizing their potential in expanding markets like England, France, Spain or Italy.
His comments come at a time when officials from the W-League and NWSL are looking to ratify an entente cordial between the two competitions aimed at streamlining player trades, fixture alignment and the sharing of information.
But the future, Montemurro is convinced, lies in hyper-competitive Europe if the Matildas’ best and brightest are serious about taking their games to the next level after their anti-climatic Women’s World Cup round of 16 exit.
“I’d put Europe ahead of the US because it brings with it the realities of football that are perfect for player development,” said the two-time W-League winning coach.
“I would say, with all due respect to the American league and W-League, the fact that seven of the eight quarter-finalists in France come from Europe tells you something.
“It highlights the reality that the European leagues are doing the right things (in nurturing talent).
“In England, for example, it’s 35 games a season, one contract, and top games week-in week-out.
“That’s the reality of the football here. I question the league in the US In terms of the amount of games they play (in a nine team competition).
“There’s a massive break and then players head off to the W-League. Some of the Australians there aren’t playing regularly for their US clubs either.
“I think they need to be in the European leagues from a continuity and also a football reality perspective.”
Expanding on the theme Montemurro, who will lead Arsenal into UEFA Champions League action next season, added: “To use Arsenal as an example you sign up to a three-year contract, you are playing 30 games based on the League Cup and the championship.
“If you go deep in the FA cup there’s another four or five. add the Champions League and that’s another four or five.
“You’re also working with your national team and getting another 10 or 12 games there.
“You’re exposed to the constant stress of high end football, differing tactics, approaches and environments.
“Let’s be honest, in the US you might get a good game here or there but you basically know what you’re coming up against.
“I don’t know ... is that real development?”
Referring to the limitations of the W-League, the former Melbourne City coach added: “Our players compete basically for their hometown teams. They get 12 games and it’s a bit of this and a bit of that.
“Development is all about stress ... about how you handle challenging tactical situations and testing environments. But our players are just not exposed to that.
“It’s about playing three games a week, having to travel mid-week, then playing again on the Saturday or the Sunday. “In England, you’ve got excellent depth in home players and foreign talent.”
Montemurro did, however, acknowledge the difficulties of Australian players without EC passports cutting through the red tape to play in the UK.
“We’re only allowed two non-EC foreigners and they must have played 75 per cent of their country’s last ‘A’ internationals (over the past two years),” he said.
“A lot of the Matildas would qualify on that criteria but there is also the issue of traveling back-and-forth to play for Australia over long distances. It’s not like going to Denmark or Spain for instance.
“You have players going back to play in Asian Cup qualifiers, some of which fall outside international windows.
“I’ve got to go my CEO and say, if I sign Steph Catley, for arguments sake, she may be missing for up to 12 weeks in a season.
“It’s a big investment for us and I’ve got to justify the investment, it’s not that easy.”