This article originally appeared on keepup.com.au
Western United’s Leo Lacroix laughs off the ‘A-Leagues’ Virgil van Dijk’ nickname but it has hard not to notice the impact the towering Swiss defender has had on the competition.
At the heart of John Aloisi’s stingy defence, which has conceded just 12 times in 15 outings to help the Victorian club to the top of the table, Lacroix has not just imposed himself defensively, but also helped himself to a rare brace on the weekend in a 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets.
The 30-year-old told The Official A-Leagues Podcast this week that it was the first time he had done that in his career, and it is also the first time the former Sion defender had been part of such a formidable defensive unit – including eight clean sheets already this season.
Top of the table, scoring goals, learning new things – no wonder he and his family are loving life in Australia so far.
“Ever since I arrived in Australia, all the people working for the club help me, put me in good condition, the players too – now, it is like a family,” he enthused.
“My family also are happy here.
“The Australian people are unbelievable – open … we can speak, talk, without problem. I am very happy.”
The one-time Swiss international didn’t entertain the Virgil van Dijk comparison put to him by our podcast panel, but, revealed a key reason why Western United are so difficult to break down – former Socceroos defender Hayden Foxe, who is the club’s assistant coach.
“Van Dijk, for me, is one of the best defenders at the moment – I like to watch him play, but I am Leo Lacroix.
“I try to give my best every game to the fans, to the club, and if I can score a goal, give a good moment for the fans, I am happy too.
“But my first job is to defend, not concede goals, and help my teammates score.”
He explained: “(With Hayden) Foxe, we are working, (on the fine) minimum details, every day.
“(He) helps us; the body shape … it is unbelievable.
“Before, I never had one coach like this who has details, details, details – so I am happy to work every week with him.
“When you don’t concede a goal, you can always (keep alive the chance to) score a goal in the 95th minute … we know if we don’t concede goals, give chances to our opponent, we can always score goal(s).”
While it is premature to get carried away, he hinted there is a belief that something is brewing at Western this term under Aloisi. “We didn’t do nothing for the moment, but I think we have a good chance to do something this year,” he added.
Lacroix has landed in Australia in great shape, and explained that former A-Leagues and Socceroos midfielder Dario Vidosic was part of the reason he ended up Down Under.
“I spoke with him, also my wife was friends with his wife, so we kept contact, with Dario. Dario was an unbelievable player in Switzerland, and when we got this opportunity to come here I spoke with him just to know about Australian football – he told me: come, you will enjoy with your family, and have a good time here; it is completely different from Europe, but you will enjoy.
“(Alessandro) Diamanti told me: ‘be ready, the intensity is high! Be ready, it is games that are not easy’, but he told me the same, ‘you will enjoy the moment’.
“I am very happy.”
This season has provided relative stability too, for a player who while at Sion, a stint which included some loan stints in Germany as well, had 16 different managers.
One of them was Italian icon Genarro Gattuso.
“He was unbelievable,” Lacroix reflect. “The mentality, like on the TV. He helped me, he helped me a lot also – tactic, with the ball … body shape … I am glad to be his player also; then he trained big teams, and I hope he can keep working and be one of the best trainer in the world.”