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|A-League Opinion: Perth Glory's Shane Smeltz is greatest A-League player|
Is it because he is Kiwi? Is it because he plays on the "other" side of Australia? It is because he isn't fast and flashy? Is it because people overlook him?
His range of abilities were there for all to see on Saturday night. A clinical header directed with expert precision, a deft flick-on that oozed finesse, a powerfully placed penalty and a skilful run followed by a sublime curling strike into the corner.
The title of "best player the A-League has seen" is quoted as being a select few players. Most pundits, fans and Roar captain Matthew Smith will tell you that Thomas Broich is the best. Some might argue that Melbourne Victory pair Carlos Hernandez and Archie Thompson have reigned supreme over the years. Few argue that it is the man I believe it to be.
The best player to have ever graced the A-League is Perth Glory's Shane Smeltz. I understand that the Kiwi striker is highly rated, but not as high as he should. Statistics over a long period of time do not lie.
Smeltz has scored 62 goals in 97 games. That equates to a goal every 1.6 A-League appearances. Only one player has a better goalscoring ratio than Smeltz; Brisbane Roar hitman Besart Berisha with 19 goals in 25 games, a goal every 1.3 games. Other prolific strikers Sergio Van Dijk and Thompson, record a goal every 2 and 2.3 games respectively.
While Berisha's ratio is better, he has only played one season in the league; Smeltz has played in four and half seasons, because of a spell in Turkey. His goalscoring record over time is second to none. His spell in the A-League has also been at three clubs; Wellington Phoenix, Gold Coast United and his current club Perth Glory. So why isn't Smeltz renowned as highly as a certain German playmaker?
The man that most regard as the league's best ever player is a special talent. German maestro Broich is a beautiful player to watch. His gracefulness on the ball, his control, turn of pace and precision delivery is a joy to witness. His impact on Brisbane's season, no doubt, was a huge reason why they had such a successful season. Broich has contributed to 26 goals (8 scored, 18 assisted) in his 43 games for the A-League champions. His contribution ratio (every 1.7 games) is just a shade short of Smeltz goalscoring ratio. However, Smeltz's figures don't include assists and his record is sustained over more than double the period of Broich.
Maybe Smeltz isn't rated as highly because he has generally played for weaker clubs. He hasn't got close to a title winning season during his A-League stint. I believe this makes his goalscoring achievements even better; the fact that he has scored so prolifically for so-called "lesser" clubs.
Maybe it's because he is a no-frills player. You won't see Smeltz regularly taking on players, dazzling opponents with skill and firing a sublime through ball. He is the man who sees ball, gets ball and smashes ball into the back of the net.
Maybe it's because he has starred in Wellington, Gold Coast and Perth; places that are far away from football centric hubs of Melbourne and Sydney.
On Saturday night, Smeltz scored four goals to help Perth demolish Melbourne Victory. When he dispatched the second-half penalty, securing a hatrick, he passed Thompson to become the all-time top scorer in the A-League. His haul signals that Perth are not a side to be taken lightly in finals. Teams coming up against the Glory have to be wary that all the Kiwi poacher needs is one chance. His finishing is lethal and his goalscoring exploits signal a return to form at the right end of the season. With Brazilian winger Andrezinho in red-hot form, Smeltz's finishing capabilities could the one thing that breaks up the Brisbane - Central Coast duopoly.
In a few years time, the Brisbane duo of Broich and Berisha may well surpass Smeltz's achievements. But until someone does, the German-born Kiwi stands alone as the best performed player in the A-League. The 30-year old most likely has a few seasons left in him and it would top off his career to win an A-League championship. Maybe then he will get the credit he deserves.
You can follow me on twitter: @kieran_francis