SOCCEROOS defender Trent Sainsbury has revealed the physical and mental barriers he had to overcome in making his dramatic switch to Italian giants Inter Milan in January, a move that he says has now ignited a "burning passion" to keep playing at the elite of world football.
Still to feature for Inter despite a succession of appearances on the bench, Sainsbury also has to convince Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou that his lack of first team football since November won't count against him for Thursday's World Cup qualifier with Iraq in Tehran.
The 25-year-old arrived at Inter having had just two weeks of physical training since the end of the Chinese Super League last November, knowing he had only until the end of this season to convince his teammates that his loan move had more credibility than a marriage of convenience from the Italian club having the same owners as his Chinese club Jiangsu Suning.
But he admitted that thanks to rule changes around foreigners' eligibility in China, the move to Inter also offered an unexpected opportunity.
"I didn't really have an option - if I'd stayed in China I wouldn't have played because of the new rule," he said.
"So I could stay there, not play and just train, or go to Inter and train and have a chance of playing. Who's going to turn down Inter Milan?
"Game time is important, we all know that, so I just have to keep training hard and try to force the coach's hand.
"It was a bit difficult going there off the back of basically no football since the end of November.
"I wasn't in the best shape and completely nervous as you'd expect. The first week or two it was more about adjusting and getting the body in shape for training.
"The CSL isn't at the same level as Serie A but I don't feel like I have to prove anything to anyone.
"If anything it's about proving to myself that I can be at that level. The biggest hurdle I have to climb is myself.
"Physically I'm okay, but tactically it's harder, the Italians love defence.
"I'm starting to pick up the language on the pitch which makes things a lot easier, but tactically I have to get used to what the team is like.
"It's not easy coming in midway through a season when I'm halfway through pre-season."
In a change of view that is likely to be welcomed by Postecoglou, Sainsbury said the return to Europe after a previous stint with PEC Zwolle in Holland had convinced him to abandon his lucrative venture in China.
"Hopefully this puts me in the shop window again," he said.
"In China you don't get the coverage you would in Europe so it definitely won't hurt my CV.
"Hopefully someone will see what I can offer their club and a move to Europe will be on the cards.
"My wife would be a hell of a lot happier, and I'm just enjoying myself at the moment.
"I'd tasted Europe before, and it's where I get the burning passion to better myself, the same as I get every time I come back into (Socceroos) camp.
"Everyone wants to push themselves and get to the next level, at Inter you see their drive. Europe is definitely on my agenda."
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