Aaron Mooy has been advised by Brighton & Hove Albion’s original Aussie import, David Clarkson, to embrace the challenge posed by Adam Lallana’s arrival, and forget about looking elsewhere for a better shot at a starting spot.
With newly-promoted Leeds United showing interest in Mooy before he headed from Huddersfield to The Amex a year ago, Marcelo Bielsa might be tempted to take a second look as he seeks to strengthen his squad for next season.
Fellow Premier League newcomers West Bromwich Albion, or the likes of Newcastle United could also be possible destinations should Mooy, 29, and the Seagulls part ways.
However Clarkson - who spent 18 months with the south coast club in the early ‘90s - believes the Socceroos midfield kingpin should see Lallana’s entrance as a statement of Brighton’s desire to avoid another fight for survival in their third year back in the top echelon.
“The question for Aaron is does he want to be in an ordinary team fighting relegation every season?” queried Clarkson.
“Or does he want to be in a team with better players who are pushing up to the league, but where he’s got to fight for his spot?
“Well, I think I know the answer there. Surely he wants to be at a club which isn’t trying to simply stave off relegation.
“The only way that can happen is if they sign better players like Lallana, who Aaron now has to go head-to-head with.”
Signed on a permanent deal from Huddersfield for $12 million in January, after beginning the season on loan, Mooy is contracted until mid-2023.
He’s reputedly raking in $100,000 a week and carries the torch as Australia’s sole outfield player operating in a Premier League once awash with Socceroos.
Mooy made 31 league appearances this season, six of which were off the bench, for two goals and two assists, mainly deployed on either the left or right side of midfield.
He already faced stiff opposition from the likes of Argentine Alexis Mac Allister and Solomon March, with Lallana’s capture on a free from Liverpool simply upping the ante.
“Nowadays it’s easy to walk away from a challenge but it’s all about putting your head down and working hard to become a better player,” added Clarkson.
“Brighton are sending the message to their fans that they no longer want to be a team at the wrong end of the table. Where’s the fun in that?”
Though the Seagulls finished 14th - thanks in large part to the performances of Socceroos ‘keeper Mat Ryan - Graham Potter’s side struggled for much of the campaign, as was the case the previous season.
“It should be exciting for Aaron that the club is looking to improve and the owner Tony Bloom isn’t just looking to tighten the purse strings and simply try and stay up,” continued Clarkson.
“That’s not a great situation because if every week’s a battle it’s hard to improve individually, and a player like Aaron doesn’t get on the ball as much.
“That was a situation he faced a fair bit at Huddersfield when they came up.”
Clarkson, who played 13 matches for Brighton in what was then the Second Division, sees Mooy attracting interest from one of the promoted clubs, or those around the middle to lower tiers of the top flight, should he want to move on.
“Aaron’s a great player and ticks a lot of boxes in many areas but he doesn’t really have the weapons to go to the very top level,” he added.
“For all his quality on the ball and his vision and passing range, he’s not particularly powerful in the air, not lightning-fast and he probably needs to score more goals.
“Brighton have a plethora of midfielders and I’m sure he’ll get his chances.
“Lallana has a history of injuries also and that may also come into play and work in Aaron’s favour.”
While Mooy initially excelled as a No 6 in Championship with the Terriers, he’s gravitated to his preferred role as a more offensive player in the Premier League.
While undecided exactly what his best position is, Clarkson is positive about one thing.
“For me, you want him as close to the opposition goal as you can and facing forward because he can be very dangerous on those areas,” he said.
“He’s not going to be a number six or eight in the Premier League.
“Whatever happens, the next couple of years will be hugely important for him.
“Of course he’s at an age where he’ll want to be playing.
“But he might also need to show a bit of patience along the way.”