Kevin Muscat's impact at Melbourne Victory stands alone as the single greatest influence on an A-League club.
The true scale of Muscat's affect at the Big V - from the standards he set as their inaugural captain, to their tactical evolution under his coaching stewardship – will likely never be repeated, but if the A-League is to ensure multi-generational growth, other clubs, coaches and players will have to follow his lead.
This is a man who returned to the A-League a season after captaining Milwall to the FA Cup Final and led a team in a salary-capped league to two Premiership / Championship doubles and a runners-up medal in six years.
Such was Muscat’s influence, a team boasting Archie Thompson and Harry Kewell finished eighth the season after his retirement.
Muscat then served a four-year stint as assistant coach, a process where so many other club legends jump ship for quicker opportunities, before delivering a further two Championships, a Premiership and an FFA Cup as head coach.
Like him or loathe him, Muscat’s DNA is as ingrained into Victory’s makeup as their colours or crest. Like a force of nature: awesome and devastating in equal measure.
This is why the 6-1 loss against Sydney FC, following another dismal Asian Champions League campaign, could never be overlooked. Victory’s ruthless ambition and unequivocal standards were set by Muscat, and willing or otherwise, he’s become their latest victim.
Victory are likely to choose a more seasoned, practical disciplinarian for their next coach, with a view of finally breaking into Asia set to be the major priority. (Assuming they don’t again take a punt on an inexperienced Aussie in the form of Harry Kewell – the former Socceroo legend has a mixed coaching career in England’s lower leagues, but a similar attacking philosophy and football pedigree to match.)
But whatever path Victory take, their future is as bright as ever. The stagnation of league attendances, fall in television ratings and arrival of new A-League clubs have only served to emphasise Melbourne’s dominance.
Victory registered an average of 7,000 more people per-match this season than both Perth Glory and Sydney FC, for a total of 85,000 more tickets sold than Perth and nearly 120,000 more than Sydney.
While the Sky Blues’ attendances dipped from over 18,000 when they dominated the league under Graham Arnold in 2016/17, to just over 13,000 this season under Steve Corica, Victory’s have remained largely steadfast since 2009.