For a long time, the Olympics have been a great opportunity for young players to earn their stripes and show the world what they’re made of.
Not long after the 2008 Olympics, we saw Nikita Rukavytsya sign for Dutch side Twente, and go on to have a solid career throughout Europe and the Middle East. To depict the true potential of performing well at the Olympics, Brazilian defender Thiago Silva was signed by AC Milan just 4 months after winning bronze at the 2008 Olympics. The world is truly watching.
This may be a route for budding star Nathaniel Atkinson, who has all but impressed his Australian fanbase during the exciting win against Argentina and unfortunate loss to Spain in the group stage. It has been reported that he could be following the recently made footsteps of All Whites defender Liberato Cacace to a club in Belgium. This has, of course, been a hugely successful move for the likes of Socceroo Mathew Ryan, who began climbing the European ladder at Club Brugge.
Off the back of a Championship season which saw Atkinson come back from an injury dubbed to be season ending, the sharp-footed wing back has recovered well and forced his way into a talented Olympic side.
There, he has continued his Joe Marston Medal winning form, gliding past players with ease when on the ball, and positioning himself expertly when defending. Winning 5 duals and completing 100% of his dribbles against Spain, Atkinson won player of the match – something that he is becoming quite proficient at!
Having already played 65 league games for Melbourne City, Atkinson is proving himself to be more than a worthy asset to club football, having the knack at playing a multitude of positions down the right-hand side across his career.
However, we could have witnessed his last if the young star should be called up to the Socceroos for the World Cup Qualifiers in early September, as this could mean he would miss the FFA Cup tie against South Melbourne on the 29th of August. If Atkinson is to be signed off the back of his Olympics performances, it could be done quickly.
For me, I would love to see Atkinson stay at Melbourne City for as long as possible. But not as much as I would love for another Australian player to be making moves in Europe.
We will be looking intently over the next few weeks, albeit hoping he hasn’t played his last game in the Olympics after that second yellow card – a win against Egypt would confirm that untrue.