If Harry Kewell is arguably Australia’s greatest footballer, imagine what he could have achieved without the raft of injuries that dogged his career.
Kewell’s long spells out of the game at Leeds, Liverpool, Galatasaray and since his return home to play in the A-League beg the question.
His list of lay-offs reads like a medical dictionary: ankle, groin, hamstring, abductor, concussion, knee, thigh and back injuries all plagued Kewell during his career.
Not to forget the implausible diagnosis of gout – later changed to a form of arthritis – in his ankle that prematurely ended his 2006 World Cup.
This season with Melbourne Heart, Kewell added a neck strain and a toe injury to his long list – and he’ll miss the next two games of the season with a rib injury before taking his bow in the final round.
At his peak more than a decade ago, Kewell was one of the most exciting and sought after players in the game.
Break-out seasons at Leeds United combined with impressive form for Australia resulted in a big-money move to Liverpool in 2003 for the skilled attacker.
But after an impressive first season – and a Champions League winners medal in his second – his career broke down with injury after injury.
Announcing his retirement in Melbourne on Wednesday, Kewell admitted he too wondered what might have been.
“I do sit there with my wife and my close friends and wonder what if,” he said.
“Yes, I feel like I can play the game, I understand the game and I wonder if I didn’t have those injuries what could have been.
“But I believe the path was set out for me and it’s made me a better person.”
If Kewell is to be remembered as a player who never quite achieved what his talent deserved, his last career goal will certainly remind fans of his ability.
Coming on in the last minutes of the Melbourne derby, Kewell found space in the middle of Victory’s defence, receiving the ball with one touch of his golden left boot before turning and lashing home from more than 20 metres.
A final, special goal from one of the last men standing from Australia’s golden generation.