Bruno Fornaroli has to be in the conversation for the Socceroos' Asian Cup squad amid his rich vein of form, says Melbourne Victory coach Tony Popovic.
But the former Socceroos defender isn't thinking about how he'll replace the A-League Men golden boot leader if he is summoned for next month's tournament in Qatar.
With the squad to be named later this month, Fornaroli's lovely left-footed goal - his 12th in eight games - in Victory's 3-0 win over Sydney FC on Saturday night couldn't have been more timely.
The 36-year-old's performance, which also featured an assist for Daniel Arzani, once again prompted a series of questions to Popovic about Fornaroli's prospects of adding to his two caps under Graham Arnold, especially in light of the injuries to Brandon Borrello and Mathew Leckie.
Fornaroli debuted as a 34-year-old against Japan in March 2022, then started against Saudi Arabia days later.
"I'm glad you're asking me regularly. It shows that a player deserves to be in that conversation," Popovic said.
"I've said it before, that's (selection) up to the Socceroos coach.
"He has to be in the conversation because he's scoring goals. He was chosen 18 months ago.
"He was, what, 35 when he was selected for Socceroos? So age wasn't an issue then - and he's playing better now.
"But Arnie's got to choose his squad and balance what he needs to do.
"If we're increasing the pool of players that he can select from, that's a credit to the players here and credit to Bruno."
Fornaroli's goal against the Sky Blues summed up a player high on confidence.
"He held the ball up so well but he looks sharp," Popovic said.
"He was moving away from defenders. And then he scores in the second half when under a bit of fatigue and on his weaker foot. Confidence, placement.
"Just delighted for him and I want it to continue, and I'm sure he does and I'm sure he will work extremely hard this week to try and replicate today's performance."
Popovic wouldn't be drawn on whether he would turn to the transfer market if Fornaroli is called up, but Victory do bat deep in attack.
"You can never just replace a Bruno Fornaroli but we've been working on Bruno playing, not playing, as we have with all the other players," he said.
"If he's not there, we'll all be very proud of him and we'll try and do well in the meantime while he's away - if that's the case.
"If it's not, he'll continue doing what he's doing and we'll try and help him in situations that he can keep getting goals."