In-form hitman Jamie Maclaren's extended spell on the sidelines is set to present Melbourne City Head Coach Erick Mombaerts with his biggest challenge since he arrived in Bundoora.
The most obvious like-for-like swap, Najjar is the only other out-and-out striker on the books of City’s A-League side and would bring the same high energy, pressing style to City’s attack that Maclaren provides.
Making a 20-minute cameo against Victory in round one of the season in what was just his third-ever senior A-League appearance, Najjar has yet to have a sustained run at it at A-League level; most of his production coming in the ranks of City’s NPL and Y-League sides.
The 19-year-old found the back of the net seven times in six games for City’s Y-League side during the 2018/19 season and followed that up with 10 goals in 15 games in the 2019 NPL2 Victoria season.
Nonetheless, the youngster's ability to make the leap represents an unknown for Mombaerts, one he – if previous A-League trends are indicative – may be disinclined to take with other, veteran players available.
Dropped for the game against Western United, Najjarine started against Adelaide in round two of the season before being substituted by Mombaerts due to concerns over defensive work rate and was then restricted to a late substitute appearance against the Reds in the FFA Cup Final.
Though he is undoubtedly more comfortable out on the wing, a move into the middle of the park would provide Najjarine with slightly less defensive work to do and empower him to tap into the creative, attacking prowess that made him such a hot prospect.
The Young Socceroo found the back of the net 13 times in 14 appearances for City’s NPL2 Victoria side in 2019, so while it’s unlikely, the 19-year-old could fill in in a pinch.
If Momaerts is really looking to mix things up – or gets desperate enough – there are a number of highly rated, uncapped youth players that could serve as attacking options in the coming weeks.
Stefan Colakovski, 19, though normally deployed on the wing, has on occasion been deployed as a striker by City’s youth sides in the past, has already featured on the bench for the senior side this season and appears ready to make his first senior appearance in some capacity.
Gianluca Iannucci, 18 – the kid from Cobram – was also deployed as a number nine on a number of occasions by City NPL Head Coach Petr Kratky during the 2019 season and carries a Young Socceroos pedigree.
Raphael Borges Rodrigues, 16 – the son of former Adelaide United import Cristiano – was recently awarded a scholarship contract after he impressed City staff in training during the early months pre-season.
And young striker Sam Morrison has made a miraculous recovery from a sickening leg break suffered during the 2019 NPL2 Victoria season, but will likely remain focused on returning to play during the upcoming Y-League season.