Australian midfielder Jason Culina has defended his decision to leave Europe in the prime of his career, against the wishes of his national coach, to return to play in the domestic A-League.
Culina, 28, who has played 38 times for his country, left Dutch club PSV Eindhoven in January to sign a three-year deal with A-League newcomers Gold Coast United worth a reported 3.6 million Australian dollars (2.6 million US).
Culina made the decision to return even though Pim Verbeek, the coach of the Socceroos, said he believed the player was putting his Australian shirt in jeopardy ahead of next year's FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa. PSV said it had offered Culina a new three-year deal, and the player also received an offer from Dinamo Zagreb. However, Culina, who began training with his new teammates on Monday, said he was content with his decision.
"I decided to sign for Gold Coast United because I believe it is the right thing for me at this point in my career," he told reporters. "It was a calculated decision and I thought long and hard about it. I'm just happy to be here now."
Responding to the debate over whether his playing standards would be compromised by returning to Australia, Culina said there was pressure on A-League players to perform as there was in Europe. "I've always been a player who gives 100 per cent and I try to do my best, so coming back to Australia certainly isn't a drop in standards," he said. "I'm going to do my job to the best of my ability, as I always do."
Gold Coast's Chinese sister club, Beijing Guoan, is a likely loan option to fill Culina's three to four-month hiatus between the end of the Australian season and the FIFA World Cup kick-off on 11 June next year. Culina is expected to be chosen for Australia's three remaining FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Qatar, Bahrain and Japan next month, before he begins the new A-League season in August.