Muscat a football giant
Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat might just be an exception to the old saying, 'no individual is bigger than the club'.
It's an old saying in sport - no individual is bigger than the club they represent.
But if there was ever an exception it would have to be Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat, who has done more both on and off the field than any other person to establish his club as the undoubted kings of the Hyundai A-League.
The 36-year-old - who will become only the second Australian player after Alex Tobin to play 500 career matches when the Victory take on Sydney in Saturday night's top-of-the-table blockbuster at Etihad Stadium - has not only already captained Melbourne to two championship wins in just four completed seasons of the Hyundai A-League but with his high profile and polished media performances off the field has also done much to ensure the Victory have the biggest supporter base in the country.
Along with coach Ernie Merrick and prolific striker Archie Thompson, Muscat has been the glue that has held the Victory together and has made the club the envy of the rest of the competition during the Hyundai A-League's short history.
It was left to Merrick on Thursday to describe just how important Muscat - who began his career under Merrick at former NSL club Sunshine George Cross in 1989 - has been to the Victory since signing for the club in 2005.
"When the board set the club up, it was all about identifying and connecting with our fans and to do that you have got to have some emotional ties," Merrick said.
"So the first thing (football manager) Gary Cole and I did was to recruit not only Australian players but Victorian players like Archie and Danny Allsopp and Kevin and when those players are here for the long-term then the fans are identifying with the players and there is a connection between the fans and the team."
Merrick said Muscat, who forged a decorated career in England and Scotland with Crystal Palace, Wolves, Rangers and Millwall, has also been grossly underrated as a player over his long career.
"Some people just brand him as a tough tackler but he has got a lot more than that," Merrick said.
"On the field his vision and skill allow him to produce fantastic 30- to 40-metre passes and if you look at some of Archie's goals they have come from the service of Kevin in the backline."
"His leadership on field is vital, he is still driven at training and he has got enormous hunger to achieve something and I'm sure he will not only be looking forward to the finals this year but the Asian Champions League as well, which is an international club competition."
Muscat says he has no regrets in his career - only the dual disappointments of never having played at the World Cup finals as well as missing the 2004 English FA Cup Final when captain of Millwall due to injury.
And he does not care one bit about often being portrayed as a one-dimensional hard man.
"I don't know if I have been unfairly treated but it certainly hasn't bothered me," he said.
"I don't go out on a football pitch to make friends and if I have upset a few people along the way then so be it."
Muscat - who rates former Socceroos team-mate Harry Kewell as the best player he has played alongside during his marathon career - says the enormity of his milestone is just beginning to hit him but joked his milestone would already be ancient history if not for his often volatile temper down the years.
"I thought (when first told of the 500-game milestone) imagine if I didn't get sent off 16 times in my career I would have got there a lot sooner but I don't know if that number (of send-offs) is accurate," he joked.
And as for when his remarkable career will have its final chapter written, well Muscat is not speculating.
"I don't think I would be able to carry on if I wasn't motivated and determined to succeed," he said.
"Other bits and pieces go gradually and I was never blessed with blistering pace but as soon as that hunger dies down to succeed I will know it's time to call it a day but at this point in time that hunger is still burning."