In the Hyundai A-League’s relatively short 14-year history, very few people have had such a profound impact, both on and off the pitch, as Kevin Muscat has at Melbourne Victory.
It is easy to forget that when Muscat decided to make the move back to Australia in 2005, the A-League had only just started and Melbourne Victory was seeking to establish its identity.
As a club, what would Victory strive to be? There was no history to fall back on, no geographical ties to call upon - it was a completely clean slate.
It is easy to say with the beauty of hindsight, but Kevin Muscat was exactly the kind of person the club needed in the early days.
A talented footballer with experience at the highest level for club and country, Muscat was the kind of player who would get an extra 10% out of his teammates. The difference between a Victory team with and without Muscat on the pitch was plain to see.
He was also a natural leader and man-manager. Muscat set the standards which have now become the bare minimum for every player and staff member who walks through the doors at Victory.
He unashamedly demanded the best from everyone with no exceptions and this is what has set Melbourne Victory apart from the rest of the A-League over the years.
Muscat’s relentless pursuit of success polarised football fans in Australia; Victory fans loved him, opposition fans hated him.
It is absolutely no coincidence that 14 years on, Victory is the competition’s most successful club with four Championships, three Premierships and an FFA Cup.
As captain or head coach, Muscat played a major role in every one of these titles and it is because of this success that Melbourne Victory fans are the most demanding in the league.
They want the club to be the biggest, the best, the most successful, with the same drive and determination that Muscat has consistently delivered over the past 14 years.
While they may or may not realise it, the majority of fans will have started supporting the club because of the high standards and expectation that Muscat instilled in the early days.
Muscat may be departing, and that brings a level of uncertainty, but it must be said that Melbourne Victory’s core values and ambitions are clearer and more defined than ever.
Again, that is no coincidence because no one has shaped Melbourne Victory’s identity more than Kevin Muscat.
Wednesday’s AFC Champions League game against Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium will be Muscat’s 215th and final match as manager of Melbourne Victory.
The club will also bid Championship-winning captain Carl Valeri farewell following five successful years at Victory.