The 'seven-year itch' is a phrase often used to describe an eventual parting of ways. Whether it was in the back of Tranquillo Barnetta's mind when he left Bayer Leverkusen after seven seasons for Bundesliga rivals Schalke is unknown, but one thing is for certain: it was a courageous decision.

Indeed, the 27-year-old was a key member of Die Werkself team for many years until he missed almost the entirety of 2011/12 through injury. Subsequently, his ambition to play in the UEFA Champions League and at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ were reason enough for him to up sticks and sign a three-year deal with Schalke.

"It's the start of a new era and a new challenge, and that's good for me," Barnetta told FIFA.com. "Slowly but surely I'm starting to settle at Schalke. The club has real tradition and I've been accepted into the group by everyone."
 
The opportunity to play in Europe's premier club competition was one of the biggest factors in the Switzerland international swapping the Rhine for the Ruhr after 187 Bundesliga appearances for the 2002 Champions League finalists.

"It's the first time I'll be able to play in the Champions League," said Barnetta. "I was injured when Leverkusen played in it and that hurt a lot, so now I'm all the more excited about competing there with Schalke."

Not only is the attacking midfielder eager to prove himself on the European stage, but also on the domestic front as Schalke, who finished third in the Bundesliga last term, attempt to close the gap on top dogs Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.
 
"We can't make the mistake of assuming other teams are better than us," he told FIFA.com. "Of course on paper other teams look stronger, but at the end of the day, it's more important how you function as a team – and that's in our hands. We're 100 per cent fit heading into the new season and we want to avoid any setbacks, but we'll have to see where we end up at the end of it."

Only time will tell whether last weekend's 2-2 opening draw at Hannover was a genuine setback, but Schalke have taken encouragement from overturning a 1-0 deficit, despite missing out on all three points after the hosts equalised with just ten minutes remaining.

Barnetta, who began the game on the bench but came on for 18-year-old Julian Draxler late on, accepts that competition for places is going to be strong under Dutch coach Huub Stevens.

"Competition and pressure are part and parcel of professional football, but I bring a certain amount of experience which can be important over the course of a long season. We've got a good squad, but we're going to need every player because the season can really take it out of you."

Brazilian dream
Still, the midfielder knows the importance of asserting himself in Gelsenkirchen with a view to making the Switzerland squad for Brazil 2014.

"I'm not putting myself under any pressure," he said, "but I think it's important for any international player to be playing regularly for his club, and that's no different with me. We saw last season that those who didn't get enough playing time abroad struggled to get into the national team, so it's my goal to play as often as possible."

Switzerland boss Ottmar Hitzfeld will certainly be monitoring Barnetta's situation at Schalke closely. Even with 62 caps to his name, the player is unlikely to receive any favours from the experienced German tactician, especially with important qualifiers approaching.

Drawn in European Zone Group E along with Norway, Slovenia, Albania, Cyprus and Iceland, the Swiss have a manageable task ahead by most accounts, although Barnetta is wary of increased pressure as a result.

"The fact that this looks like an easy group on paper is precisely the problem," he explained. "Expectations in Switzerland a very high because there are no favourites in our group. We're going to have to play out of our skins against these so-called 'lesser' opponents if we're to have a chance of qualifying for the World Cup. That's our duty anyway."

Barnetta and Co kick off their campaign with an away trip to Slovenia on 7 September before welcoming Albania to Luzern four days later. "We'll have to be fully focused on the performance," the 27-year-old said. "A good start is enormously important because we don't want to have to chase the game from early on."

Hitzfeld's side will be aiming for top spot in order to qualify for Brazil 2014 directly, and Barnetta insists he is ready for the challenge: "To play in a third World Cup with Switzerland would be sensational. It would be a dream come true to be there in Brazil."