Finals could be the swansong for several of Melbourne Victory’s boys in blue

One thing seems to be a given in Australian soccer, particularly so if a team wins a grand final.

The chances of the title-winning XI playing together more than a handful of times in the future is almost non-existent.

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At his best Fahid Ben Khalfallah was excellent for Melbourne Victory.

At his best Fahid Ben Khalfallah was excellent for Melbourne Victory. Photo: Getty Images

Salary cap pressures, interest from other clubs, the ambition of players to test themselves in overseas leagues and the fact that rivals often make higher wage-offers to proven champions all come into play and bring about rapid turnover.

Melbourne Victory bucked the trend the last time it won the championship, in 2015, and several of the players who were in that match-day squad are still with the team, or remained for at least a season after.

Mark Milligan, the captain that day, was the only significant departure immediately after the win.

Seven of the team that beat Sydney 3-0 in that championship decider at AAMI Park are likely to figure on Sunday when Victory hosts Brisbane for a place in the 2017 grand final: goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas, defenders Nick Ansell and Danny Georgievski, midfielders Leigh Broxham and Carl Valeri, winger Fahid Ben Khalfallah and striker Besart Berisha are all still around.

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Jason Geria, who has become Victory’s first-choice right-back in the two seasons since then, was on the bench that day, as was midfield utility Rashid Mahazi. Both are likely to be involved again on Sunday in some capacity.

But Victory is an exception. Remember when the Newcastle Jets won the title in 2008 only to lose several key players the following year. The Jets have never really recovered, failing to make the finals since 2010.

The same happened last season to Adelaide United, who won the title in glorious style last year only to fall off the pace dramatically this season when many of their star players left: the Reds did not even make the play-offs in 2016-17.

For several players at Victory, Sunday’s game – should they lose to Brisbane – could, or will, be their last match in navy blue.

Ansell, Ben Khalfalla and Mahazi of the class of 2015 are all out of contract, as are Spanish centre-half Alan Baro, who joined at the start of this season on a one-year deal, and James Troisi, the Socceroo attacker who did likewise.

Ansell, who was only 21 when he won the title two years ago, has been in and out of the team in the past few seasons. A serious injury has hampered his development and he has spent this year in a battle alongside James Donachie, signed from Brisbane in the off season, to partner Baro.

Despite the fact that he missed some seven months after the grand final with a foot injury, he signed a contract extension 13 months ago to keep him at AAMI Park until the end of this season. At his age he needs to play regular football, but the question for him is whether he will get it at Victory.

Mahazi is in a similar position. Two years older, he joined Victory during Ange Postecoglou’s period in charge and while he is a familiar face in the match-day squad it is usually as a substitute, where his versatility ensures he is a useful asset to play in midfield or defence if Victory needs to consolidate a lead or shut down a game.

But at the midpoint of his career he, too, would prefer to be playing regularly.

Fahid Ben Khalfallah is definitely coming to the end of his time at Victory. No matter what happens, the French-born-and-raised Tunisian international will not be suiting up in navy next season.

Coach Kevin Muscat left him out of several matches this season and at 34 (he will be 35 when the next A-League season kicks off) he does not figure in Muscat’s plans for the future.

The coach wants wide players with a high workrate who get up and down the flanks, pressing when the opposition has the ball and helping out Victory’s full-backs when the opponents are attacking. Ben Khalfallah’s talents lie in taking defenders on and at his age he lacks the engines required to get up and down the flanks like a younger man.

At his best Ben Khalfallah was excellent. In his first season with Victory he showed the full range of his talents, with a fluid passing game, excellent skill and invention and the ability to score goals which made him an important contributor to Victory’s title-winning team.

He has fallen off those lofty standards in the past couple of years and Sunday, or the grand final, will be his swansong. He is interested in staying in Australia next season so it will be fascinating to see if any other A-League clubs are keen to pick him up on a one-year deal.

Georgievski is another who is on his way out from AAMI Park, the combative full-back already having announced that he has inked a deal to play for the Newcastle Jets next season.

Troisi is still in talks with Victory about a new deal as a marquee player, while Baro’s future remains uncertain.

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