But the fledgling club allowed him to terminate his contract and make the move to southwest China and embark on an exciting journey.
tribalfootball.com caught up with the former Sydney FC front man for a quick chat about the initial move to Chengdu, how he has settled and his debut for the club.
How was the transition from one day training with the Fury to hopping on a plane and then linking up with Chengdu?
“Everything happened so quick and I really didn’t have time to think of the Fury at this point because this was another opportunity for me to play overseas and take on a new challenge which most footballers like to do. In my case, I was fortunate that this opportunity had come my way and I’m now delighted to be here in China.”
Have the club helped you settle in from day one? How have they done it? (ie, found you accommodation, car etc)
“The club have been fantastic in helping me settle in, accommodation and transport were a general concern for me but when I had seen what was on offer I felt very comfortable. Everybody within the club has made me feel very welcome and the players especially have helped my settling in period much easier.”
How are you handling the massive difference in culture and language so far?
“Coming to China and not knowing much about the lifestyle and culture was interesting for me and I was prepared for a shock after reading an interview from my ex-teammate Mark Bridge. Language is obviously a problem but my translator in the club is there whenever I need him. It has definitely been an eye opener so far but it’s all experience and over time you learn to accept other peoples culture and their way of living.”
Tell us about your debut for the Blades against Shaanxi Chanba. What was the feeling like scoring two late goals to win and sharing it with your new teammates?
“Obviously it was a great feeling to win and to start the game and play my first 90mins in a long time gave me great confidence for the coming weeks. The team worked really hard in the mid-season break where we had a training camp in Kunming at high altitude and to see all that hard work pay off is a good feeling for all the players and we were all delighted with the win.”
How did you play, what type of role did you have and did you have a hand in either of the goals?
“I was given the role of playing the lone striker, a position I haven’t played much at all but I enjoyed it. I had a hand in our 2nd goal which came from a counter attack and although I played the final pass, our goalscorer finished it off nicely.”
“I had a brief chat to him before and after the game and that was about it but it was good to talk to someone on the same wave length and somebody who understands the Australian accent.”
Santalab will get the chance to come up against his former Sydney FC teammate, Mark Milligan, who is enjoying some good form with Shanghai.