Sydney FC midfielder Anthony Caceres is set to embark on his tenth season as a professional footballer this year. During that time, he has demonstrated the grit, determination and class required to emerge as one of Australia’s brightest midfield talents…
Starting his career in Gosford with the Central Coast Mariners, Caceres broke in to the Mariners first team at the height of their dominance in the 2012-13 A-League season.
While the club had many experienced heads on their books, including the likes of Daniel McBreen, Patrick Zwaanswijk and Mile Sterjovski, it was for their production of young, outstanding talents that the Mariners were most known for; Modern-day Socceroos stars Mat Ryan, Trent Sainsbury and Tom Rogic representing a handful of names to break through on the Central Coast.
Anthony Caceres would turn out to be no exception.
Making his debut against rivals Newcastle Jets in an F3 derby, in his first season as a professional footballer Caceres would only feature a handful of times, including making the bench in their Grand Final win over Western Sydney Wanderers.
It was the following season where he would start to gather momentum and clock up serious minutes, first showing Australian fans what he was capable of.
Caceres transition to becoming a key member of the Mariners set up was rapid, becoming the preferred option in midfield to fill the void of injured star recruit Marcos Flores.
“When I brought Anthony Caceres to the Mariners his potential was obvious” former Mariners manager Tony Walmsley said.
Caceres would build on his excellent start to life in the A-League, lighting up the division with his dribbling and attacking intelligence making him stand out.
After a few noteworthy seasons with the Mariners, he was quickly becoming one of the hottest prospects Australian football.
With 62 appearances for the Gosford side to his name, It was in January of 2016 that football powerhouses Manchester City secured his signature.
Signing for a reported fee of $300,000 AUD, Caceres would become City’s first signing of the January transfer window.
“Whenever you’re attached to a club with the stature of Man City, there’s going to be expectations, I knew that when the opportunity come along, and it’s something I fully embraced” Caceres said.
“I think pressure in the long-term makes you more resilient and forces you to dig deep and bring the best out of yourself.”
Caceres was almost immediately loaned out to fellow City Football Group side Melbourne City.
He enjoyed mixed form during his first season in Melbourne, and would struggle to find his feet immediately after the move.
However, in the second season of his loan stint, Caceres would start to flourish and show glimpses of the brilliance he had once showed in Mariners colours.
Starting his second season with a win in the FFA Cup, coming off the bench in the 61st minute, Caceres would carry that good form into the 2016/17 season, featuring in every match for his side in the league.
“You learn as much about yourself as a person, then as yourself as a footballer, so I’ve learned some very valuable lessons along the way.
“The most recurring lesson would be resilience, I think that is one of the best attributes you can gain in football, you’re facing new challenges weekly, monthly, yearly, and overcoming those helps you become a better footballer and helps you be prepared for other lessons in all walks of life.
“Just being resilient and as honest with yourself as possible is probably what I’ve taken away from my career so far.”
After leaving Melbourne City, Caceres would embark on his second loan stint from his parent club Manchester City in the 2017-18 season, signing with UAE Arabian Gulf League side Al Wasl.
The more attacking style of the football in the UAE seemed to work well for Caceres, with the midfielder settling quickly and finding some exceptional form, making 21 appearances and scoring one goal as he become a regular for the Dubai based side.
This form would turn heads back home, with pundits and fans in Australia tipping him as a contender for the Socceroos.
“The football was actually very different, I felt that over there individuals make a greater difference to the outcome of games, a lot of match-winners, players who are capable of changing the game in a split-second with a decisive pass or a bit of play that will make a difference in the scoreline.”
Overcoming the difficult conditions and quality of the league well, going on to feature in all but one game, his stint in the Middle East could be considered a success.
While the side would finish third in the league and qualify for the Asian Champions League, Caceres would return to Australia at the end of the 2017/18 season for a short stint with former side Melbourne City.
“They take many talented players from South America, particularly Brazilians who are technically very gifted and they’re the type of players who make a difference.
“Here in Australia, there is more of a team approach to tactics, everyone has to play their part defensively as well as in attack, in the UAE I found that players were given a certain role, creative players were able to cheat in defence and focus solely on what they do on the ball, where here, everyone needs to collaborate defensively too.”
After only six months and with limited minutes in his second stint at City, Caceres would leave the club at the start of the 2019 January transfer window.
On the same day, Caceres would go out on loan for the fourth and final time, joining A-League powerhouses Sydney FC .
Sydney would dominate the league and go on to become Premiers that season, with Caceres coming off the bench in the 78th minute in the Grand Final to win the second A-League Premiership of his career.
The club would waste no time in making his loan move a permanent one, signing the midfielder on a two-year deal.
And with each game at Sydney FC, one could sense that Caceres was not only growing in confidence, but also growing as a player, becoming a key piece in the Sydney FC puzzle and forming a great partnership with Serbian Milos Ninkovic.
“The thing that has stood out to me about Ninko, is no matter the situation he is in, no matter the occasion, he always insists on playing his own football and doesn’t succumb to the pressure of an occasion.
“He never looks like he is under pressure, as he is composed at all times and always makes the right decision.
“That’s something that I strive to achieve, having that composure in all situations, he’s one of the best ball players that we have had in the league and it’s a privilege to play with him week-in week-out.”
Now approaching his tenth season as a professional footballer, looking back on his career so far, we have seen some outstanding football from Caceres, which has resulted in plaudits from pundits and peers.
However, the ever hungry Caceres still insists that the Australian football community have not seen yet seen the best of him.
“I still think I have more to offer, since joining Sydney, I’ve really settled as a footballer and matured really well.
“With the success that has come with joining the club, I think I’ve grown in confidence season by season, now I’m at an age where I’ve had many years under my belt, physically I think I’m in the best shape I could be in, and I think I still am yet to show my very best.
“I’ve had some really good periods, especially since joining Sydney, I’ve found some good consistency here, but I still think I can shift it another notch and produce even better quality football.”
After being almost untouchable for a number of seasons in the league, last season Melbourne City would finally triumph over Sydney in the Grand Final, after beating them to the Premiers Plate during the season, with Sydney players and fans eager to wrestle back the title from the leagues fellow sky blue side.
With the new A-League Men’s campaign looming on the horizon, Sydney FC will look to start the new season strongly and will be hoping to replicate their destructive form demonstrated during pre-season when they clash with cross town rivals Western Sydney Wanderers in the opening round.
“Personally I’ve had to manage a few injuries that I picked up last season, I was playing with those injuries and it took its toll after a while. I took this opportunity in pre season to get my body right and now I’m back into full training and reaching full fitness, so I’m doing really good at the moment.
“We have had new boys come into the team, I think they’ve all settled in really well, they bring their own qualities that they can add to the team and on top of all that, they’ve been great additions to the dressing room as well.
“It’s been a great pre-season so far and we are all just looking forward to getting the season under way.”
Image Source: Sydney FC/Jaime Castaneda