Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has hailed midfielder Aaron Mooy’s overnight move to Celtic as a “fantastic next step” and the perfect career platform heading into the looming World Cup.
Mooy, 31, was majestic for Australia in racking up 210 minutes of action in the playoff qualifiers against UAE and Peru - despite playing just one competitive game all year heading into those June duels.
Arnold watched with bated breath as the free agent pondered his next destination after negotiating a release from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Port earlier this month.
With Norwich, Middlesbrough and Swansea City left disappointed, Arnold reckons Mooy’s reunion with former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou at Parkhead is heaven sent.
“I think it’s just a fantastic next step for Aaron,” Arnold told beIN SPORTS. “Aaron has a great history working under Ange with the Socceroos previously - and there’s obviously an understanding and a trust there between the two of them.
“He’ll be playing in front of full houses every week, there’s European football to look forward to, it’s superb for him and I think he’ll do really well. I’m very happy for him and I know he can be an important player for Celtic, just as he is for us.”
Already based back in Glasgow - where wife Nicola hails from - Mooy has made a logical choice on multiple fronts, explaining it was one he simply “couldn’t turn down”.
Speaking after penning the two-year deal, Mooy said: “I played for St Mirren when I was a youngster - that was a while ago - and I've always been back and forth to Glasgow because of family, so it's an amazing opportunity and one that I couldn't turn down.
"It's an amazing feeling and I'm just so happy to be here. It's a massive club with a huge history and I want to be part of it, so I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead.
"It's always a bit stressful when you're talking with a club, especially a club like Celtic because they're such a massive club, so I'm delighted that it's all done and I can get to work and hit the training ground.
"Ange was my coach for about three years in the national team so I know the standards he wants and I'm looking forward to working with him again."
Ironically Mooy used the training facilities of arch rival Rangers to get up to speed for those vital World Cup playoffs, after defying the pleas of Shanghai to return to China, where stringent Covid quarantine diktats would have made representing the green and gold impossible.
He worked tirelessly in one-on-one sessions with Australia’s sports science guru Andrew Clark, leaving Arnold eternally grateful.
“It was incredible what he managed - 45 minutes (in a friendly against Jordan), 90 (against UAE) and 120 (against Peru) from a guy who’d barely played all year,” Arnold said.
“The mindset he had was brilliant and the message I got from him was that he wanted to get back to club land (after previous UK stints with Huddersfield and Brighton) and really get to enjoying his football again which is what’s great for him and Australia.”
With Tom Rogic having departed the Hoops, Mooy will be the sole on-field Aussie at the club, while Postecoglou and assistant coach Harry Kewell work to extract the most from a player whose guile and canny distribution will be an handy asset for the defending Scottish Premiership champion.
Mooy will be back in a Socceroos shirt for the Centenary celebration clashes against New Zealand in Brisbane on 22 September, and across the Tasman at Eden Park three days later.
Arnold plans on naming a full strength squad for the games - the last before Australia's opening World Cup Group D blockbuster with France on 23 November in Qatar.
But, due to the short turnaround time between those All Whites fixtures, he is likely to field different line ups in each.
“It’s a FIFA window and we’ll have our strongest team here to celebrate 100 years of the Socceroos,” he said. “It will also give the fans a chance to say goodbye to the boys and show them their support.
“A lot of players felt a lack of support through the qualifying campaign, with some of the criticism thrown at us by some ex-players.
“It will be good for fans to give us a big send-off and there’s the opportunity there for players to impress and get on that sheet to go to the World Cup.”