Plagued by injury, dropped from the national team, and frozen out at Luzern, Tomi Juric’s career is at crossroads.
The striker has managed just eight appearances in all competitions this season, scoring a solitary goal.
His contract at the Swiss outfit expires in June, with management already allowing him the freedom to speak to other clubs. At 27 years of age, this next contract may define his career.
Links to Indonesian side Persib Bandung appear to be unfounded, despite the club’s supporters inundating social media with celebrations of his arrival.
However, the transfer rumour is perhaps an indication of just how far his stock has fallen.
A regular under Ange Postecoglou, Juric’s assist for James Troisi in the Asian Cup Final remains his finest moment in a Socceroos jersey – fitting, for a striker whose goalscoring is almost an afterthought.
His awful one-on-one miss away in San Pedro Sula summed up supporters’ frustrations. After creating the opportunity himself with a brilliant flick past the Honduran defender, Juric skewed his effort well wide.
While a bad bobble may have been to blame, a lack of decisiveness in front of goal has long held Juric back.
His game exists in stark contrast to the man he tried and failed to succeed at #9 – Tim Cahill. Instead, Juric is all build-up and little end product, with aerial ability hardly his strong suit in spite of his 1.9m frame.
Burdensome comparisons to Mark Viduka have followed Juric throughout his career. A big Croatian-Australian who plays with his back to goal? The parallels are unavoidable.
And like Viduka, Juric can still contribute to the national team without being a prolific scorer.
As the Socceroos found out in the UAE in January, pure finishing ability means nothing if the team cannot create meaningful chances.
Jamie Maclaren watched cross after cross fly over his head, and barely touched the ball in build-up play, preferring to hang on the shoulder of the last defender, his pace neutered by deep-lying opposition defences.
In Juric, however, Australia has a striker who can demand the ball to his feet, hold off a defender, and play in a teammate. Awer Mabil’s debut goal stole the headlines against Kuwait, but who skipped away from his defender and picked out the perfect pass?
Despite Australia’s obsession with finding another Cahill, the burden of goalscoring does not have to fall on the #9.
In fact, the European club game is trending toward fleet-footed wingers scoring the bulk of the goals, coming inside to fill the space created by a false nine.
The likes of Leckie, Rogic, Arzani, Boyle, and Ikonomidis have more than enough scoring punch, provided the system of play can create opportunities for them.
A fit, in-form Tomi Juric would go quite a way to achieving that – making his next move not only crucial for his career, but for his country.