‘He’s a special talent’: The former Hyundai A-League star in awe of McGree

There were a few eyebrows raised when Adelaide United paid a transfer fee for the first time in club history to pry Riley McGree away from Club Brugge.

The then-20-year-old inked a three-year deal with the Reds in July in what club Director of Football Bruce Djite labelled “money well spent.”

“It is a statement… there’s probably not a better Australian talent we could have signed,” Djite said at the club’s unveiling press conference.

While it may have seemed like a big call at the time, no one is arguing with Djite now after McGree’s sensational start to the 2019/20 Season with the high-flying Reds.

Not only did the Gawler-born playmaker guide the club to the FFA Cup crown, he has been in eye-catching form in the Hyundai A-League.

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His match-winning double to sink Melbourne Victory on Saturday night made it six goals in just six appearances this season.

Only Melbourne City striker Jamie Maclaren – nine goals in four games – sits ahead of midfielder McGree in the race for the Golden Boot.

“I’ve seen the kid and he’s very talented,” former Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets star Ali Abbas said in a Fox Sports podcast this week.

“He can play both left and right which these days you can’t actually find [those players].

“He has awareness of the game and not many young players have that vision on the field.

“He caught my eye when he scored [the scorpion kick] for Newcastle. That’s when I started following the kid and I thought he was special.

“Touch wood he never gets injured and I think he can be a special player for Australia.”

Riley McGree

Abbas said it’s not just McGree’s goals that make him a huge talent, but also his versatility.

“As a coach you’d be happy if you had a player like him. He can play more than one position,” the ex-Iraq international said.

“That’s when you find only for the national team you have to have players that can fill more than one or two positions.

“Riley can play left, right, midfielder, striker.”

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McGree is not the only Hyundai A-League player that has caught Abbas’ eye.

Melbourne City striker Maclaren is another who is enjoying career-best form at the moment, creating Hyundai A-League history against Western Sydney Wanderers last Friday night.

The 26-year-old’s match-winning double made him the first player to score at least two goals in four successive Hyundai A-League matches.

“He’s a good finisher, you want a player like that in your team. He can score at any minute, any time,” Abbas said of the Caltex Socceroos striker.

“He can be inside the box, outside the box. He’s not very tall but he can score with his head as well. You’d be happy as a coach to have a player like him.”

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