Kevin Muscat (right) is likely to coach Melbourne Victory if Ange Postecoglou (left) gets the Socceroos job. Photo: Getty Images
Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou is a short-priced favourite to get the nod as sacked Socceroo boss Holger Osieck's replacement. But the big question is, will Melbourne Victory give its blessing - or become a roadblock, preventing Postecoglou from fulfilling a lifetime's ambition?
The signs are that the biggest club in Australia could play hardball with the FFA over its prized asset, who has two years left on his contract and no get-out clause.
Fairfax Media has been told there is some feeling within the Victory board that the club, having spent so much time and effort luring Postecoglou from Brisbane (which he led to two championships), should not let him go, even if it is the national team that has come calling. Victory officials are playing a straight bat to inquiries about their position, even though FFA boss Frank Lowy confirmed on Tuesday that this time Australia would go local after dismissing the German Osieck after two horror 6-0 losses, to Brazil and France.
Victory chief executive Ian Robson on Tuesday said: ''We have had no formal approach from the FFA and we will not be drawn on hypotheticals. We will have a dialogue with the FFA. They want to secure the consent of all those concerned, recognising that there are contractual issues at stake here.''
Postecoglou is widely regarded as the FFA's preferred candidate ahead of Central Coast's Graham Arnold and Western Sydney Wanderers' Tony Popovic.
Arnold has been an interim Socceroo coach (at the 2007 Asian Cup) and was part of the set-up for the best part of a decade before taking over the Mariners, which he led to the A-League championship last season.
Popovic has had a couple of seasons as an assistant coach, at Sydney FC and English Premiership club Crystal Palace, as well as a stellar campaign as boss of the Wanderers in the club's first season. That West Sydney is owned by the FFA could, however, be a factor against him.
In terms of achievement, Postecoglou's record stands out: he has won four national championships (two in the old NSL with South Melbourne and two with Brisbane Roar) and took Victory to a preliminary final in his first season at AAMI Park.
He has been reluctant to buy into the debate this week, although he has said he was against a tokenist appointment. But he has indicated that if the powers that be anoint him because they think he is the best man for the job, he would be happy to take the post and begin what he has described as a wholesale rebuild of the side.
''A year out from the World Cup, it needs some pretty drastic action, I think. It'll go beyond just a change in coach, there needs to be a shift in the way things are done at that level,'' he said this week.
Postecoglou, who has been coaching for 17 years, is desperate to get the chance to rebuild the national team.
For Victory, the approach, when it comes, represents a dilemma.If it stands in Postecoglou's way, it risks having a resentful coach who will feel hard done by for the last two years of his contract - as well as attracting the opprobrium of large sectors of soccer fans, who believe the time is right to appoint a successful Australian to the job.
It could demand significant compensation from the FFA, which might ease the pain slightly. But that is something the game's governing body, having paid out close to $1 million to part company with Osieck, would not want.
If Postecoglou goes this early in the season, it is hard not to think that Kevin Muscat, 40, would not be the person most likely to step into his shoes. Muscat has been an assistant since retiring from the game three seasons ago, working under Ernie Merrick, Mehmet Durakovic, Jim Magilton and now Postecoglou.
He has served his apprenticeship, understands the culture and dynamic of the club better than anyone - he has gone a long way towards creating it as a player and assistant coach - and has the self-belief to take on the challenge.