Why Australia should get behind Sainsbury’s Italian Job

As published on ‘The Roar’ – 03/02/2017

Trent Sainsbury’s shock move to Italian giants Inter has many in the Australian football community excited, while others have cast doubts over the loan given his likelihood of breaking into the first team.

However, the six-month loan deal from Chinese Super League outfit, Jiangsu Suning, has the potential to do wonders for the 25-year-old, even if he fails to play a minute of Serie A football.

There will never be a substitute for minutes on the pitch. But, it’s the underlying value of training opposite one of the world’s most in-form strikers in Mauro Icardi, and the attacking quality surrounding him, that provides so much potential to Sainsbury’s ongoing development.

The 23-year-old Argentinian is not one to keep a low profile and has been embroiled in numerous controversies off the field.

Yet the Inter captain is most known for his devastating ability in front of goal as one of the most clinical finishes in European football.

In fact, Icardi currently leads the tally for combined goals and assists produced this season across the major European leagues, such is his all-round skill around the box.

Of course, that’s without mentioning the crossing abilities of Antonio Candreva, Ivan Perisic’s pace and skill on the ball, Joao Mario’s constant threat on the edge of the 18-yard-box and the highly acclaimed Brazilian prodigy that is Gabriel Barbosa.

Thus, six months of training among such talent would be an exciting prospect for most defenders around the world, and you would have to think the West Australian is no different.

This is, however, not to say that the former Central Coast Mariner should be content to sit on the sidelines.

Stefano Pioli has already shown he will not hesitate to start a newcomer if they can prove they’re ready to seize an opportunity.

Just days after signing 23-year-old Roberto Gagliardini from Atalanta, the Italian tactician surprised many by starting the midfielder against Chievo as well as the following two matches.

The Bergamo junior made the move to Milan with less than 15 Serie A appearances and, yet, was entrusted to immediately start for a club under the highest of scrutiny.

While Sainsbury lacks the experience in Italy, he has proven his ability to perform for the big occasions.

After suffering a cruel season-ending injury on his Eredivisie debut for PEC Zwolle, the Australian made a return to the starting line-up for the club’s first match of the following campaign – the 2014 Dutch Super Cup where his side were victorious and kept a clean sheet.

At the 2015 Asian Cup, the centre-back scored his first international goal in Australia’s 2-0 semi-final victory over the United Arab Emirates before producing a man-of-the-match performance in the Final over South Korea.

On arrival at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Sainsbury starts as the fourth choice centre-back. This doesn’t sound overly promising, though defence is certainly an element the club has struggled with in recent seasons.

Miranda stands as the defensive leader, despite some uncharacteristic mistakes in recent weeks. Thus, the Socceroo’s real competition comes in the form of Colombia international Jeison Murillo, who has been anything but consistent this season, as well as a primarily defensive midfielder in Gary Medel.

While the move does assist Jiangsu Suning in meeting the Chinese Super League’s new limitations imposed on international players, make no mistake that Sainsbury’s presence does serve a purpose; providing additional depth following the loaning out of Andrea Ranocchia to Hull City.

It’s an incredible challenge, though, just as importantly, a rare opportunity that the Australian should look to seize.

When you consider that the Chinese Super League remains in its off-season and, at worst, Sainsbury would only miss a couple of months of football, the positives that can potentially stem from the loan deal for both the individual and the Socceroos should not be ignored.

With the exception of Tom Rogic at Celtic, it’s been a long while since an Australian outfield player has made the books of a European giant. Thus, this is a move that our football community should certainly get excited about and support – even if he never quite makes it onto the San Siro pitch.

Photo credit: FC Inter via facebook.com/inter

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