Socceroos star Massimo Luongo admits he’s still in shock at the sight of his name on the prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlist.
The 59-player list was widely leaked last week, with Luongo finding himself alongside previous winners Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to be in the running to be named the best player in the world.
The 23-year-old, who has only recently traded England’s third tier for Queens Park Rangers in the Championship, said he thought it was a prank when he was first told.
“I didn’t even know if it was real … I thought it was someone trying to be funny,” he said.
“It’s obviously a big honour, not many people get on it, I can say I’ve been on the Ballon d’Or list now.
“I don’t know what to say about it … it’s a bit random.”
Perhaps Luongo, who seemed almost embarrased to have his name mentioned in such company, shouldn’t be so taken aback.
The midfielder was named player of the tournament for his effort with the Asian Cup-winning Socceroos in January.
The reaction to Luongo’s inclusion has been one of disdain in many European media outlets, questioning the worth of the Asian tournament by extension.
Whatever’s being written, it has no chance of changing the down-to-earth Sydney native.
“Boys joke about it with me, the boys are taking the piss a little bit, I do myself as well” he said.
“If it was something like a big move or something, the media attention would play on my mind a little bit but this (doesn’t affect me) maybe because I’ve got no chance of winning it.”
At his new club, Luongo is adapting to a new role; a support striker alongside Charlie Austin in a 4-4-2 formation.
It’s not a position he’s played in before and not one he’s overly comfortable in.
He said he looked to his Socceroos captain for inspiration in lasting the distance.
“Mile (Jedinak), how many times has he been out of the squad and he always gets a sniff back in when there’s a run of games,” he said.
“I still want to play in midfield, but it’s a long season with loads of games.”