Socceroos gloveman Mat Ryan suspects long-time rival Mitch Langerak might revisit his decision to quit international football, and put his hand up to play for Australia again at some point in the future.
Heavily in contention to skipper the Socceroos in next month’s FIFA World Cup qualifying hub in Kuwait, Ryan was taken aback by J1 League-based Langerak last week announcing his Socceroos career was over.
The pair have been the friendliest of adversaries down the years, with eight-cap Langerak, 32, citing the difficulties of being away from family during the Covid-19 pandemic for his decision to step away.
“I was surprised because of the calibre of goalkeeper he is and the quality he possesses,” Ryan said of his former understudy.
“We were in touch by text the other week after his announcement, talking about the head-to-head battle we’ve had over the years.
“I was saying to him that I smell a comeback already from him (down the track).
“I just think the biggest factor for him was his family situation with Covid.
“But once the world has dealt with this situation and we can get back to the old normal then I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in the frame at some point. it’s just a little feeling I have.
“In saying that, he makes the decisions on what’s best for him and his family and I totally respect that.
“He’s done the country proud every time he’s been in the squad and every game he’s played.
“If it is the end then I obviously wish him the best in his next chapter. But I hope we can run into each other again in the national team set-up in the not too distant future.
“It’s just an external opinion from me. I could be wrong, I could be right. I guess we will find out in the future.
“He’s a great goalkeeper and has a lot of high quality football left in him.”
Ryan, who links with his teammates in Dubai this week, said the camaraderie between Australia’s goalkeeping fraternity had never been soured by any disaffection from those who’ve missed out.
“We’ve all had good upbringings and are good people,” he stated.
“We recognise that wishing ill on anybody because somebody is not playing at any given moment is never going to achieve anything.
“There are times when I haven’t been playing so regularly in clubland or I may have missed out for my country.
“But I’ve always tried to help the keeper who is going to play as best as I can.
“The objective there is always the team, not the individual. You poison your own coffee a bit if you ever wish ill on anybody and do something that has a negative impact on their performance.
"The keepers I have worked with at both club and international level have always shared that same attitude.”
Ryan captained Australia in their last qualifier 18 months ago when they beat Jordan 1-0 in Amman.
It’s a role he relishes, but he points out that Australia have other seasoned leaders such as Trent Sainsbury, Mathew Leckie, Jackson Irvine, Bailey Wright and Tom Rogic.
And it’s more important how the team performs than who wears the armband.
“I’m just trying to go about my work and get out on the pitch - first and foremost,” he explained.
“We all lead by example and have got a great group.
“Whoever is named on the day, it’s a great privilege for them but the role is shared collectively by everyone.
“We’re all out there doing our best to make our country proud.”
Ryan’s loan spell at Arsenal is officially over - he was ineligible against parent club Brighton overnight.
He won plaudits for his three Premier League starts ahead of first-choice Bernd Leno, with many fans urging the Gunners to sign him permanently.
Despite his fleeting club football since January, Ryan says it’s “business as usual” as he closes in on his 60th cap.
“There are things you can’t control to a certain extent,” he added.
“No matter what the preparation has been, if you’re out there ticking all the boxes then you can’t do anymore than that. That’s been my focus.
“In a perfect world I’d love to be playing every week and I’ve worked hard in order to try and obtain that.
“But for one reason or another it hasn’t played out recently in that way. I’ve just tried to adapt and keep going and make the most of the opportunities I have had.”
Group B leaders Australia are expected to brush past Kuwait, Nepal, Taiwan and Jordan to rubber stamp their place in the final phase of qualifying for Qatar 2022.
But Ryan isn’t buying into any talk of easy pickings.
“In my experience there are no easy games - you have to treat every game exactly the same,” he said.
“If you fail to give teams the respect they deserve, you get into a bit of complacency.
“Then, if you over-respect an opponent, you allow them to play to their strengths.
“It’s about finding that happy balance.
“With these types of nations, a lot of their players have had hardships growing up, difficult living circumstances that have shaped who they are.
“Many of them have had to fight in order to survive and that is portrayed through the way they play the game.
“They give everything and are willing to go to all lengths to try and win. We need to make sure we want it more.”