Melbourne City skipper Scott Jamieson says new signing Markel Susaeta can provide a much-needed X-Factor in the club’s pursuit of its maiden A-League crown.
City this morning announced the capture of the one-time Spanish international who slots into the space vacated by Javier Cabrera in the club’s foreign contingent.
A veteran of 507 appearances for Athletic Bilbao, the 32-year-old departed Spain after more than a decade at the San Mamés Stadium in 2019, saying he was quitting Europe to avoid ever having to play against his former club.
A brief seven-game stint with Japanese powerhouse Gamba Osaka followed before he made the move to City, who had initially targeted him ahead of the 2019/20 season.
The Basque-born attacker arrives in the A-League with one of the most impressive resumes in competition history, supplementing his time in La Liga with forays into more than 60 European games – which reached their peak with an appearance in the 2011/12 Europa League final defeat to Atletico Madrid.
Providing Susaeta's paperwork comes through in time, the right-winger is expected to be available for selection in City’s clash with Newcastle Jets on Saturday night.
“I think we as a nation are very lucky to have someone of his calibre and more so as a football club to have someone of Markel’s calibre,” said Jamieson.
“I think it’s testament to him as a person that he stayed at one club for so long and that he didn’t want to go back and play in Spain so he didn’t have to play against Bilbao.
“As a player, you’re looking at [someone that’s competed in] of the toughest, best leagues in the world, so to play 500+ games, his ability can’t be questioned.
“It’s just about trying to get him adapted to the league here, the culture and that’s up to the club and the players and myself just to make him feel really welcome.
"He’s been here for a day and he’s a lovely lad. So, fingers crossed we can speed him up and get him going for the second part of the season.
“I think in regard to our squad this year we obviously have Macca [Jamie Maclaren] who has won us games on his own kind of thing but hopefully Markel is that kind of X-Factor.
"I hope we don’t have a game in the balance because then we might be struggling but in terms of X-Factor, he might be one that can change a game.
“Him coming in will obviously be a boost for everybody, not just on the field, but off the field he can be a great addition to a lot of us, the young players and myself.
"His experience having worked with some great managers, Bielsa at Bilbao, but also having that mentality of staying at a high level for such a long time can only be good for us.
“I’m sure on the field he’ll have an impact, it’s about adapting, we don’t know how quick that can be but it will be a boost off the field.”
Susaeta will be looking to bolster a City sit that sits second on the A-League table heading into this weekend’s fixtures, eleven points back of Sydney FC and two-clear of third and fourth-placed Perth Glory and Wellington.
Though they have battled to find consistent form, the mood and discourse around the club have experienced a marked improvement this season – sitting in stark contrast to this time this year when the conversation was still dominated by the ongoing standoff between Warren Joyce and Bruno Fornaroli.
“Outside the four walls, there seems to be a lot more positivity in regards to the way we are viewed as a club at the moment,” Jamieson said. “It’s been well documented that our fans have been upset with a few things that our club has done over the years but where we stand now, I think we’re making great strides as an organisation - to really improve our relationship with our fans, with sponsors.
“On the field, yeah we are playing a good style of football, which is one thing, but we are sitting second at the moment but we’ve been inconsistent so there’s still a lot to improve.
“But I definitely feel that our football is going in an upward direction rather than, at times, it’s stood still.”