The 27-year old former Sydney FC forward has been a key ingredient in the Blades’ return to the Chinese Super League this term after the club was relegated to Division One after being embroiled in a match-fixing scandal at the end of last season.
Chengdu cannot miss out on promotion this season after defeating Beijing Baxy 3-1 on the weekend and Santalab was already looking forward to next season.
“Gaining promotion back to the Chinese Super League has been a collective achievement right throughout the club, it’s always a great feeling when you achieve your goals as a team and personally,” Santalab told tribalfootball.com. “There is a great buzz around the club at the moment and I’m very happy to be a part of it all. It’s an exciting time for myself and obviously the club.”
Santalab said the fact the players were able to turn around the misfortunes of the club after poor decisions made in regard to match-fixing was also very rewarding.
“The team was outstanding in the second half of the season last year and to be relegated after our 7th place finish was very hard to accept,” he added. “It was very disappointing for everybody involved in the club.
“We set a target as a team this season to win promotion straight back and we have achieved that with 3 rounds still to play. The team and club deserve to be back in the Super League after only losing 6 games in the last 34. It’s a great achievement for me personally to be a part of that statistic. I’m confident we can keep the good results coming and be a force in the Super League next season.”
From a personal viewpoint, Santalab says he has been treated well by Chengdu and is loving his time at the club although he admits he is unsure what the future holds.
“The club have been fantastic towards me and even through difficult times I’ve always had the support and help from the club when needed,” he added further. “We have great fans and their support has been a massive confidence boost for me as well.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the Super League again next season, I’m enjoying life here with Chengdu Blades. The last year and 3 months has been a memorable one for me.
“I’m contracted for one more season and after that it is hard to say. I’m already focused on next season, playing consistent football and being a key member of the squad remains my goal for the upcoming season.
“Obviously there is the A-League back home and when I’m finished in China I’d certainly like to be a part of the A-League again but football has taken me to many different countries so far and I have no idea at this stage where I will end up after China.”