When Jamie Maclaren, the prolific frontman, who scored 40 goals in 53 matches in the past two seasons for Brisbane Roar, ended last season out of contract, he was presented with offers from all over the world.
The 24-year old rejected big-money contracts in Asia and comfortable choices at home, and instead decided to sign with German club SV Darmstadt 98 - who were recently relegated to the 2. Bundesliga, one league below one of the best competitions in the world, the Bundesliga.
With the 2017/18 season underway, Maclaren has sat down with Tribal Football to discuss his new life in Germany, the Darmstadt environment and chasing the World Cup dream.
You had an amazing two seasons with Brisbane Roar. How do you reflect upon on your time there?
It was really good. A lot of people questioned whether I could be the starting striker at the age of 22, but I worked hard and believed in myself and had the backing of John [Aloisi, manager of Brisbane Roar]. 2 years later and 53 A-League games with 40 goals, and an A-League Golden Boot. It goes to show that hard work does pay off if you really want it!
How did your move to Germany eventuate?
Originally I knew there was interest from Germany the previous year, but Roar did not want to sell me. So I put my head down and knew I had one year left on my contract and would leave as a free agent. But I faced some challenges and like anything, thing's change. It was a nice feeling to sit down and really have a good think about where would suit me for my jump to Europe.
Is there motivation to prove yourself in Europe after Blackburn?
There is. At Blackburn I had to accept the fact that only two players in my generation ended up making first team debuts, and as a striker it's always harder to break in as I believe it is the most pressure felt position on the football field. I could have went to the UK this transfer window but decided on Germany, there is always motivation for me because since I was 12 I have had coaches who said I wasn't good enough.
Tell us about your new career in Germany.
Playing in Germany is something I've worked very hard for. The dream was to be a first-team player in Europe, and a few years ago I sat down and said I'd love to play in Germany. It's really great! SV Darmstadt 98 played in the Bundesliga last year and the squad is full of quality.
How have you adjusted to living in a foreign country? Has there been many challenges?
I've been very fortunate that I left home at 15 chasing the football dream, so to me [my hometown] Sunbury will always be home. But I'm now nine years away from my family, so moving around does get easier over the years. But of course Germany is a whole new experience and culture! I'm having German lessons, but I have to say the language is a damn hard one!
The difference between the 2. Bundesliga and A-League I would say is the all round quality of the squad. We have 24 professional's here and every single player is fighting for their position during training, there is no guarantees. I would say the German's are proper in organising and making sure the player is provided with everything to ensure there are no excuses when they go out on the field.
What has Torsten Frings been like as a manager?
Torsten has been good. He is freshly retired so he knows the modern day footballer and how clubs works, he is very good at speaking and passing advice on to his players. However, if there is something he is not happy about then he lets us know! He is a winner and it definitely rubs off on us everyday in 4v4s or even friendly games. As he says: "do not come off the field a loser."
Has he told you of his plans for you this season? Do you know where you'll play?
Yeah he likes my versatility either as a 9 or as a second striker. I think it works against me being so good as an impact substitute, but also it is a team game and you have to play your role. It is a long season and I have a three-year deal so I never expected things to happen instantly.
Is there anybody you're looking forward to coming up against and test yourself?
With the World Cup coming up next year, what are your goals for this season with Darmstadt? What do you feel you need to do to book your ticket to Russia?
Firstly we [Australia] have a good challenge in front of us, qualifying is never easy but we are in a healthy position and I believe we can get the results needed to qualify for the World Cup. But for me personally, it is to adjust [to German football] as quickly as possible, I knew it was never going to be perfect or great from the start. It is a fresh start, I need to be patient but also stay hungry for my opportunity and when it comes, be ready to take it. I am just looking to rack up as many games as I can, and as a striker hit the back of the net.
How do you feel about being named in the provisional 30-man squad for Australia's upcoming WCQ qualifiers?
It's always an honour to be named in the 30-man squad; to be representing not only yourself, your family and friends, but also a nation who go to pubs and fill the stadiums with their own hard earned money to watch us play! You are playing for a nation that's proud and that is something I always think about. My debut was in front of 50,000 Englishman but singing the national anthem with the team is something that gives me goosebumps at the thought.