Brisbane Roar legend Thomas Broich dreams of Thailand swansong
In terms of what he's produced on the pitch, three-time A-League champion Thomas Broich is arguably the greatest foreigner to have played in Australia. Now, after his final Asian Champions League road trip with Brisbane Roar in Thailand, the 36-year-old German is eyeing a swansong in the Land of Smiles.
Broich was the senior member of a young and raw Brisbane side --- most of the squad stayed behind in Australia to prepare for Sunday's A-League semifinal against Melbourne Victory -- who lost 3-0 to Thai champions Muangthong United on Wednesday night.
"If there was an opportunity for me [to play in Thailand], I'd come here straight away," Broich told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview. "I'm very open to whatever comes in at the moment.
"My good friend Matt Smith [and former Brisbane captain] is playing for Bangkok Glass, and he speaks very highly of the Thai League. He loves it here. I visited him last year. I watched a game, and I quite liked it."
Salary cap issues mean that Brisbane will have to part ways with Broich at the end of the season after seven years.
His unlikely journey from Bundesliga clubs like Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Koln to Queensland was chronicled in the documentary film, "Tom Meets Zizou." A former Germany under-21 teammate of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski, he was touted as one of his nation's big hopes ahead of the 2006 World Cup.
Yet, his career stalled at FC Nurnberg after an early-season injury in 2009 and he considered giving up football for good. However, then-Brisbane Roar coach Ange Postecoglou -- the current Australian national team boss -- drove nine hours across Germany to offer him a new beginning in Australia.
Signing with Brisbane in May 2010 at the age of 29, Broich made an instant impact as one of the newcomers of the Postecoglou revolution at Suncorp. The Roar won their first Premiership and Championship, and with six goals and 14 assists, their gifted No. 22 was named player of the year.
It is his ability to provide opportunities for others, with exquisite passes and precise set pieces, and his durability over seven seasons in a hot summer competition played on hard grounds, that sets Broich apart. The likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Dwight Yorke provided flashes of brilliance at the tail-end of their careers, but only ex-Brisbane teammate Besart Berisha can rival Broich in terms of longevity and undisputed value.
Broich, who played twice for Germany B, has been consistently so good that there were calls for him to be fast-tracked into the Socceroos after having fulfilled residency requirements so he could pull the strings in their 2014 World Cup campaign. In the end, it never happened, although Broich is now in the early stages of applying for Australian citizenship.
"No, I never had the chance ... I wasn't entitled to," Broich said when asked about the possibility of him playing for his adopted country three years ago.
"Australia has certainly embraced me, and given me the opportunity to fully express myself on the pitch. I'll be forever grateful for that opportunity."
Ex-Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder Didi Hamann is one former Germany international who believes that Broich could have a done a job for the Socceroos had he been given the chance.
"He was technically very gifted, and a great leader in the Bundesliga," Hamann told ESPN FC. "It didn't happen for him with the German national team ... there was a lot of competition at the time.
"I'd definitely say he was Germany's loss and Australia's gain."
Having played a strong second half in Brisbane's dramatic penalty-shootout victory over Western Sydney Wanderers in last Friday's elimination final, Broich will now focus on Sunday's semifinal away to Melbourne Victory. It will mean a reunion with Kosovo international Berisha, with whom he won three major trophies between 2011 and 2014.
"We played with a very young squad [in Thailand] so obviously we're prioritising the game on Sunday, and that's really one to look forward to," he said. "We're only one game away from a Grand Final, so that's massive."
And with a strong desire to keep playing past his 37th birthday, whether in Australia or Southeast Asia, Broich says it's too early to talk about the legacy he might leave, or discuss how his A-League career compares to his time in the Bundesliga.
"I haven't really made that comparison yet -- the big comparison, the final judgment," Broich smiled.
"All I can say is that I've really enjoyed my time in Brisbane. And although it might not be in Australia again, I'm still very keen to play on. Who knows what's going to come next?"
Jason Dasey is ESPN FC Senior Editor in Singapore. Formerly Asian editor of FourFourTwo, he was also a CNN and BBC broadcaster. Twitter: @JasonDasey.