'He brings a confidence to players around him': Muscat's high praise for 'selfless' Toivonen
Ola Toivonen has a galvanising influence on his teammates according to Kevin Muscat, a pay-off which has fortified Melbourne Victory’s unbeaten streak.
The reigning Hyundai A-League Champions are nine matches unbeaten and yet to taste defeat when their towering Swedish striker is in the squad.
Toivonen missed the opening three rounds of the season but has since tallied seven goals and two assists in eight explosive appearances in Victory colours.
In the process, the 32-year-old became the first Victory player to net in five consecutive Hyundai A-League games following last Saturday’s Round 11 win against Western Sydney Wanderers.
However, it is the former Sunderland and PSV attacker’s selfless qualities that drew high praise from Victory boss Muscat when he fronted the media on Tuesday morning.
“He [Toivonen] brings a confidence to players around him,” Muscat said.
“The amount of opportunities we're getting in the final third [is] based on a lot of stuff that he does and he's contributing heavily [and] selflessly to the team.
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“He does a lot of work for the team with the ball. When we’ve got the ball, everybody concentrates and we speak about working when we haven’t got the ball.
“Based on his off-season playing at the World Cup and then coming across he had a different start to us.
“It took him a little bit longer, he had some soreness. But his intelligence and willingness to be selfless [has been invaluable].”
With a host of key first-team personnel in the treatment room, Victory will need Toivonen more than ever throughout a busy January period – a hectic schedule which continues with Wednesday night’s Original Rivalry clash against Adelaide United.
Muscat confirmed defenders Georg Niedermeier and Nick Ansell would miss the trip to the City of Churches, while Keisuke Honda continues his rehabilitation from a ‘freak’ hamstring injury.
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Meanwhile, the Victory boss admitted Raul Baena would not be rushed to start despite the Spanish midfielder returning from a hamstring complaint against the Wanderers.
“He contributed well when he did manage to come on the other day and the temptation was there to bring him on a lot earlier, but he’s obviously feeling good and happy with himself and got some confidence back and again," Muscat added.
“We won’t be taking any risks with him and look forward to integrating him into the team as permits.”