Australian football has a Luke Ivanovic problem.
It’s not a problem with Ivanovic himself – far from it.
The 19-year-old's appearances at A-League level in the 2018/19 season demonstrated that the young attacker possesses the potential to turn into an exciting and dynamic player in the coming years.
But, still a teen, he is entering one of the most critical phases of his development.
He has reached the point in his career where, whilst games against other players of his age cohort can still play a purpose, he needs to be getting regular opportunities to play senior minutes in order to take his game to the next level.
However, across the 2018/19 and 2019/20 A-League seasons, the Sydney FC prospect has played a total of 209 minutes. This was supplemented by just 11 appearances at an NPL NSW level.
These aren’t the type of numbers that are going to empower Ivanovic to begin to reach his potential.
That’s not to say, however, that one can simply handwave away the problems faced in helping the winger develop as a challenge of Sydney FC. Indeed, Sydney FC is, first and foremost, in the business of winning A-League games.
Their frontline of Adam le Fondre, Kosta Barbarouses, Miloš Ninković and Alexander Baumjohann is an almost impenetrable collection of talent that has Sydney flying to start the season.
While one would suggest that neglecting to forge a pathway that can properly develop players that can go on to contribute year in and year out at a high level and potentially fetch a nice little (or big) transfer fee is a risky game, if Sydney is confident that they can win continue to win A-League Premierships and Championships without doing so then more power to them.
Looking at recent history, it can be argued that it’s working.
Indeed, as much as Australian football has a Luke Ivanovic problem, it could also be said that it has a Moudi Najjar problem or a Rahmat Akbari problem.
It is a problem not with the players themselves but instead the system that they operate in: a system that doesn’t provide youngsters with enough opportunities to play and does not properly incentivise clubs to actively search out avenues for them to do so.
Furthermore, with only 11 teams operating as professional clubs in Australia – soon to be 12 with the addition of Macarthur FC – there is always going to be a deficit of opportunities available for the hundreds of young players coming through the academy system regardless of how much clubs at a senior level embrace playing youth.