“I believe, now I have worked with him, that he could play for Barcelona. I believe he could play for Man City.”
It is how Ian Holloway extraordinarily described Massimo Luongo at one point during his second tenure as manager of Queens Park Rangers. Holloway’s level of belief and admiration for the Australian showed his importance to the team.
Luongo is instrumental to QPR’s midfield. He is their dynamo. Influencing both defence and attack is a difficult role to adopt, particularly in the scarce resources the West London side offer. Luongo managed to exceed expectations and become a bright spark in a team which lacks quality.
The departure of Luke Freeman has been common knowledge for the past six months with multiple clubs, including Premier League teams, interested in the attacking midfielder. However, the potential departure of Luongo went under the radar as a result. Reports suggests QPR are ready to sell the midfielder, leaving only Josh Scowen and Ryan Manning as the only senior central midfielders at the club. It is another indication of the bleak atmosphere at Loftus Road.
The reason for QPR reportedly preparing for his departure is due to Luongo’s wage demands. The 26-year-old’s contract runs-out next summer and Luongo would need to accept a pay-cut if he wanted to stay. It’s another example of the demoralising reality for Rangers. There will be a sour taste in his departure as Luongo has been an ever-present figure since QPR’s relegation in 2015.
The Australian has made 145 appearances and has been involved in 26 goals during his QPR career. While these statistics do not look blistering on paper, it is Luongo’s ability to win the ball and bring it forward that he excels at. He made over three tackles, as well more than one interception and clearance a game last season. Luongo also won 2.5 aerial duels per game, an impressive statistic for a 5ft 8 midfielder.
Nevertheless, a key weakness for Luongo is to score goals. Rangers have had tame strikers in the past few seasons and goals from midfield have been needed. However, Luongo has only scored 10 goals for QPR, with 6 being his highest goal tally in a season – a below par total. Regardless, QPR will miss the sections of his game that don’t appear in statistics. Ball retention, turning defence into attack and his concentration is supplementary to his development as someone who can secure a position in a play-off contending team.
Wherever Luongo’s long-term future lies, his eventual departure will hurt QPR as much as, or possibly more than, Freeman’s. An integral player who brought electric energy to a lacklustre Rangers squad, and important defensive awareness to a leaky defence. Pre-season preparations have just got even harder for Mark Warburton.