It is not often Hyundai A-League clubs like to use up a visa spot on signing a goalkeeper.
Coaches have historically preferred to reserve those spots for the “money men”, the excitement factor players who make or score the goals rather than those who prevent them.
Admittedly, there has been a slight shifting in that position in recent times with the likes of Thomas Sorensen (Denmark) playing with Melbourne City several seasons back and Filip Kurto (Poland) and Stefan Marinovic (Croatia) linking with Western United and Perth Glory respectively.
One of Western Sydney Wanderers shrewdest moves was to sign Swiss goalkeeper Daniel Lopar at the start of the season.
Little known outside of his homeland, Lopar has been a standout in his debut season in the Hyundai A-League and become a huge hit with the Wanderers faithful along the way.
Quietly spoken and unassuming, the shot-stopper has gone about his work with a minimum of fuss and has been like a brick wall in the Wanderers goal.
Lopar sits third behind Mark Birighitti (Central Coast Mariners) and Paul Izzo (Adelaide United) in goalkeeper ranking for most saves, having made 42 in 12 games.
Significantly, he has a 100 percent record in making one-on-one saves (four), while he has made 14 clearances and has had 369 touches with 242 passing attempts.
That Lopar has been one of the successes stories of the Hyundai A-League this season should come as no surprise.
The 34-year-old has certainly justified head coach Markus Babbel’s faith in luring him to Australia and using up a foreigner’s spot on him.
During his time coaching Luzern in the Swiss league, Babbel experienced first hand just how good Lopar is at his job.
Playing for St Gallen, where he spent 13 years and 300 games, Lopar was a huge thorn in the side of Babbel’s then club. In the four times they met that season, he was almost impenetrable as Luzern failed to score against him.
While Lopar has been a massive influence on the field, his contribution to the Red & Black can also be measured in what he brings off the field.
Lopar always seems to be a smiling figure in the dressing room, at training and around the club’s offices where he is quick with a “hello” and a firm handshake.
Importantly, Lopar is a huge source of information and experience for the young goalkeepers at the Wanderers. The young shot-stoppers could not have a better sounding board than the Swiss master.
It is instructive watching Lopar, whether in a game situation or at training. Few work harder in training than him.
Lopar says he is enjoying playing in the A-League and is not surprised by the quality of the competition.
“It is a league that is growing up. I saw some games on television so I knew it is good,” said Lopar.
While he says his focus is strongly on the Wanderers and getting them success, Lopar tries to ensure he is not totally consumed with football as he likes nothing better than to explore the sights of Sydney and the surrounding areas.
“I settled in very good with the football and the club,” Lopar said.
“My family and I like it. We wanted to enjoy the culture. We picked a big bus tour when we first got here.
“I was in Manly and I also saw all the beaches. It’s a wonderful city and a high quality of life, the same as back home.”