Just days after taking Melbourne City to their first A-League Grand Final, coach Erick Mombaerts is quitting, to be replaced by assistant Patrick Kisnorbo, the club confirmed today.
The former coach of Yokohama F. Marinos - partly-owned by City's CFG global network parent company - came to Melbourne on a three-year deal in 2019 tasked with reinvigorating a club and fanbase dulled after two years of pragmatism under Warren Joyce.
The subsequent turnaround as Mombaerts implemented his "City style" was rapid. City had their highest-ever league finish, setting a new record for points and securing Asian Champions League qualification for the first time.
Although silverware again proved elusive – defeated by Adelaide United in the 2019 FFA Cup Final and Sydney in the 2020 A-League Grand Final – their football style won over neutral fans and pundits alike and established a foundation for future success.
However, with the long-distance between himself and his family compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the 65-year-old Frenchman, who missed two games during Australia’s first COVID peak after deciding not to risk exposure by travelling, has been forced to make the difficult decision to return to Europe.
“I am sad to leave Melbourne City in these circumstances, but I am so very proud of the players and what the club has achieved during my time here,” Mombaerts said.
“We have reached some incredible milestones, we have implemented an exciting way to play, and we have become a true family, playing together every week for our fans, and I have no doubt that Patrick will continue this work. The team is in safe hands under his leadership.
“I have had a fantastic experience in Melbourne and I will always remember my time here with much fondness, but I have been away from my family for a long time and now I must return to care for them in France.”
City Director of Football Michael Petrillo heaped praise on Mombaerts.
“Erick’s contribution is part of a multi-year football strategy that has many contributors. His part in this strategy has been invaluable and its significance will always be remembered,” he said.
“We have seen the team’s playing style transformed to a more dynamic, attacking brand of football and we are also well-positioned to be able to maintain an ongoing challenge for titles.”
Those “ongoing title challenges” are now set to take place under the charge of former Socceroo Kisnorbo who, after serving a long apprenticeship within City’s coaching ranks, has been tapped to take over the senior A-League side.
Petrillo sadded: “Patrick’s apprenticeship under Erick positions him perfectly to take us forward as we enter the next stage of the Club’s journey,”
Kisnorbo first arrived in Bundoora as an injury replacement for marquee Orlando Engelaar when the resident club was still known as Melbourne Heart.
The tough as nails former South Melbourne, Hearts, Leicester City and Leeds United defender was promptly named captain of the newly named City in his second year at the club.
Making 76 appearances for Heart/City, he immediately moved into their coaching ranks after quitting as a player, serving as an academy coach – mentoring several youngsters now establishing themselves in the first team – before he was appointed assistant to W-Leage player/coach Jess Fishlock during the 2016/17 season.
Named W-League head coach the following season, he was in the dugout as City lifted the 17/18 W-League Championship before then becoming an assistant with the A-League side.
“Patrick has been part of this Club for more than seven years and steps into this role at an incredibly important and exciting time for Melbourne City. All eyes are on next season and we are all ready to get to work to build on the achievements of this season,” City CEO Brad Rowse said,
Ahead of taking on his first-ever senior men’s head coaching role, Kisnorbo hailed Mombaerts' mentorship and thanked the club he says is ‘in his blood’.
“I’m grateful to the City Football Group for their support in my development since I began my coaching journey,” Kisnorbo said.
“Erick has taught me so much and I am extremely grateful for the way he has helped both myself and the club to develop over the last 14 months.
"Melbourne City is in my blood now and I am here to work hard, to give my all and to ensure this team continues to be a team that everyone can be proud to be a part of.”
With Momaberts’ departure, seven of the 11 coaches that began the 19/20 A-League season have departed their clubs, with just Alen Stajcic, Steve Corica, Ufuk Talay and Mark Rudan remaining.
Of those seven departures only two, Tony Popovic and Ernie Merrick, were local coaches.
After a one-month break following their Grand Final defeat, City’s squad is set to return to training in early October to begin preparations for next season.