Shanghai surprise: Lockdown fear prompts Mooy to defy club to help Socceroos

Aaron Mooy is defying his club to help the Socceroos reach the 2022 World Cup.

The midfielder is refusing to return to Shanghai Port FC for pre-season training despite repeated requests by the Chinese Super League side for him to report for duty, due to a fear he will end up trapped by China’s COVID-19 lockdown and be unable to take part in the Socceroos’ World Cup play-offs.

The Chinese Super League season was initially set to start in March but has been delayed for four months due to the spike in COVID-19 cases which has resulted in the city being placed under lockdown.

Uncertainty over his ability to travel for international duty prompted Mooy to remain in Scotland, where he and Socceroos teammates have been maintaining their fitness in sessions with the national team’s strength and conditioning coach, Andrew Clarke and teammates.

The club wanted him to go back, the club was trying to force him to go back but he wanted to be here with us. I won’t release the details of what that took for Aaron, but he’s made a big sacrifice to be here with us, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said.

According to sources close to Mooy, his refusal to return to Shanghai is yet to cost him a contract reportedly worth $180,000 per week.

Mooy has not played a competitive game of football in 2022 but has worked his way back to fitness with small-sided games and an intensive programs including a training camp in the UAE in May with other Europe-based Socceroos.

Arnold says he has no concerns over Mooy’s fitness ahead of the June 7 play-off against UAE in Qatar and a potential clash with Peru six days later.

I trust him enormously. We’ve missed his quality on the pitch. He’s another player we have missed enormously right through the campaign, Arnold said. I am not saying he will start the game but we have him here for his experience and his quality.

Mooy will have another chance to prove his fitness in a friendly match against Jordan on Thursday morning. The UAE had an uninspiring result in their warm-up match on Monday morning, drawing 1-1 at home against Gambia.

Meanwhile, Western Sydney Wanderers have made a significant coup with the signing of fringe Socceroo goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas. The 30-year-old signed a three-year deal with the Wanderers, joining from Danish club Sonderjyske where he made 58 appearances for over two seasons.

Sydney FC have also tied down their goalkeeper, agreeing a new deal with Andrew Redmayne for another three seasons. The Australian international was off-contract but extended his deal until June 2025.

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