Liverpool target Mathew Ryan ready to progress to the next level
Mathew Ryan has put in plenty of solid performances in helping Australia to reach the final of the Asian Cup. The goalkeeper, linked with Liverpool, has been ever-present and is likely to have a key role if Australia are to win the trophy on home soil.
Born in the Sydney suburb of Plumpton, New South Wales, Ryan began his training at the nearby club Blacktown City before joining the youth setup of the A-League side Central Coast Mariners. He was signed to a professional contract for the start of the 2010-11 season, with the idea that he would shadow veteran goalkeeper Jess Vanstrattan. But soon after, Vanstrattan suffered a serious injury and Ryan was thrust into the limelight.
There were errors from time to time, as is inevitable with a young goalkeeper still learning his craft, but Ryan showed great ability and composure and impressed with the way he bounced back from each setback. With the trust of coach Graham Arnold, he won the young player of the year award in each of his first two A-League seasons and was then a title winner with the Mariners in his third.
By then, he had already spent time on trial at Tottenham and West Brom but he felt that an intermediate move would be necessary before he could thrive in the Premier League. Club Brugge offered regular first team football and so he moved to Belgium in the summer of 2013. He had a solid first campaign and has continued to impress this season under new coach Michel Preud'homme, himself a former international goalkeeper.
Ryan was recently voted the Belgian Pro League goalkeeper of the year for 2014 and his performances have started to attract the attention of clubs in the major European leagues. He signed an improved four-year deal with Brugge in November but he has admitted that he would be happy to step up to the next level when the right opportunity presents itself.
Ryan is a strong and assured goalkeeper who makes up for his relative lack of height (5-foot-9) with a muscular build that ensures that he fills his goal. He is confident in his work, reasonably proactive in coming off his line and maintains good communication with his defence. The real standout, however, is the quality of his distribution, which is universally excellent over short, medium and long distances.
- excellent distribution with both hands and feet
- good reaction speed
- positionally sound
- slow down to low efforts
- tendency to punch
Handling: Still punches more often than he should from high balls into the area, especially considering how commanding he looks on the occasions he does come and claim, but this aspect of the game is improving. Generally safe and secure in his handling from efforts on target, although he does need to work on diverting the ball further away from danger when parrying.
Agility: Displays quick reactions in saving powerful or close range, medium-height efforts on goal. Swift to spring up after making an initial save to prepare himself for a rebound. Does, however, seem to have some problems getting down to low efforts from medium or long range -- he looks slow to do so, and often parries the ball back into the danger zone.
Positioning: Sound. He usually gets his angles right and does a good job of covering the majority of the goal when he advances from his line to close down an opponent.
Command of Area: Reasonably proactive in coming to claim or punch high balls into the penalty box. Relatively quick in coming off his line to close down the angle inside the area. Communicates well with his defence.
Distribution: Superb. Possesses a sure touch and the ability to distribute the ball quickly and accurately over various distances. Particularly adept at clipped passes out to the flanks. Sometimes slices under heavy pressure but this is not a regular occurrence. Also capable of launching quick attacks with a long throw or a kick from his hands deep into opposition territory.
What The Experts Say
Central Coast Mariners goalkeeping coach, John Crawley: "He's the kind of kid that gets off his line, commands his back four very well and he's got that added offensive game where he clears balls with both left and right foot... he can find people in the middle of park better than a fullback, better than any midfielder could."
Former Club Brugge sporting director, Arnar Gretarsson: "I don't see him staying for much longer at Club Brugge. I think he will move to a bigger team, possibly for next season. He definitely has the quality to play in the big three leagues."
22 - Since the beginning of last season, no goalkeeper has kept more clean sheets than @MatyRyan in the Belgian Jupiler League. Safe.- OptaJason (@OptaJason) January 15, 2015
Ryan was in attendance at the Telstra Stadium in Sydney in November 2005 when Australia qualified for their first World Cup in 32 years by defeating Uruguay on penalties. The goalkeeper that day, Mark Schwarzer, was his childhood idol.
Brendan Rodgers revealed earlier this month that his current goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is struggling with his role as an instigator of attacks and his distribution is not really up to the level that Liverpool want to play. The club are thought to be looking for a new goalkeeper and it is no surprise that Ryan has been mentioned. His distribution is among the best of any young goalkeeper in world football.
But while Rodgers would clearly like to add to his options this month, it is highly improbable that Ryan would make an immediate move to Anfield if Liverpool did elect to pursue a move. He is currently concentrated on his Asian Cup commitments with Australia, while Brugge are embroiled in a battle for the Pro League title.
His agent has, however, suggested that Ryan would be keen to test himself in the Premier League in the future, and he certainly has the right attributes and mentality to make a success of himself in England. In a career thus characterised by regular progression, it would be no surprise if Liverpool or another English club represent his next destination.
Nick Dorrington is a freelance football writer. Twitter: @chewingthecoca.