Mustafa Amini, back in Australia and playing for his hometown club after a tumultuous period hampered by injury, has had a very intriguing and eventful career thus far.
It’s important to note, however, that at 28 years of age there is plenty left to come from the Sydney-born central midfielder who’s shared some of football’s most famous pitches with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Robert Lewandowski.
After a hugely promising start to his career at the Central Coast Mariners under now Socceroos boss Graham Arnold, Amini jumped on a plane and headed to Germany to trial for some clubs in the Bundesliga.
Amini, just 18 years of age at the time, impressed during his time trialing with German giants Borussia Dortmund. His performances even caught the eye of first-team manager Jurgen Klopp.
“I had trials at a few clubs in Germany,” Amini tells Kick360.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d be offered a contract by Dortmund, but one day Jurgen Klopp sat me down.
“He said he knew I was trailing at other clubs and just told me, ‘You’re not going anywhere.’”
First-team opportunities were limited as Amini was competing for a spot in the Dortmund midfield with the likes of Turkey international Nuri Sahin and Ilkay Gundogan.
After making 57 appearances and netting three goals for Borussia Dortmund II, the German club’s reserve team, he made the short move north to Randers in Denmark. He then moved to another club in the Danish Superliga, AGF, before a stint in Cypriot football that was marred by injury.
“It’s tough in European football when you get an injury,” Amini says.
“Because they’ve got such a large talent pool to draw from, someone else is always ready to step up and take an injured player’s spot.
“And once you lose your spot in the team, it can be really hard to get it back.”
Finding himself without a club in 2021, Amini’s agent Buddy Farah went to work. Soon there was a six-month contract on the table with Sydney FC, ostensibly as cover for injured central midfielder Luke Brattan.
It was the right time for the Western Sydney native and father-of-one with another young one on the way to come home.
On returning to the league where he first made his name, Amini is full of praise for the standard of football and facilities around the league, but makes note of the challenges the A-League Men competition is currently having with crowd numbers.
“It’s great to be back home in Sydney and playing for a great club in Sydney FC,” he says.
“It’s been over ten years since I’ve played in this league and the standard is really good. Even foreign players who might see coming here as a holiday always say it’s a tough league to play in.
“The facilities, the stadiums are good. But what we need to do is get the fans back in.
“In my time with the Mariners I played in front of 50,000 at Suncorp Stadium. That was a grand final, of course, but it shows the interest is there.”
It’s been an up and down campaign for Sydney so far. They currently sit mid-table, but each side below them boasts at least two games in hand on Steve Corica’s side.
A lack of finishing has been their achilles heel in 2021-22.
Despite the fact the Sky Blues have only won one of their last five in which they have only managed five points, Amini insists morale is still high among the group and they have the quality to challenge the league’s best sides.
“Honestly, I think we’ve been playing good football recently,” Amini says.
“We just need to take our chances.
“You saw against Melbourne City, we had chances to win that game. If (Milos) Ninkovic puts in the chance he had just after his goal, it’s 2-1 and it’s a different game.
“But then Mat Leckie scores in injury time and we’re walking into the dressing room dejected.
“Against Wellington we had chances to win it as well. We’ve got quality in this group and there’s no lack of belief.”
When asked about the one moment he cherishes the most in football, Amini is steadfast in his reply.
Is it being hand-picked by Klopp and signing a four-year contract at Dortmund or going up against Gerrard on the hallowed turf of Anfield?
The answer, no.
It’s a moment much closer to his heart, one that carries a great deal of meaning for himself and his family.
“Definitely representing Australia,” Amini says proudly.
“It gave me goosebumps from head to toe. I could have started crying singing the national anthem.
“That’s something you don’t take for granted.
“And that’s why it’s been so hard being injured during the (Qatar 2022) World Cup qualifying campaign – I thought I was going to be a big part of that.”
His move to Sydney doesn’t represent a metaphorical eulogy for Amini’s career, in fact far from it.
Still on the right side of 30, there’s plenty of runway left for the Sydney FC midfielder.
He is keeping his feet on the ground, however, not wanting to get too far ahead of himself. Taking time to enjoy his football and being around family, but not forgetting ambitions to get back to the highest level of the game.
“I’m just grateful to be fit, to be healthy, to be alive and playing football,” Amini says.
“I’m not planning ahead. I’m taking care of myself, seeing my family day in and day out, which I haven’t been able to do for a long time, and playing for Sydney Football Club.
“There’s always dreams of getting back into the national team, getting a call-up again and hopefully getting to a World Cup, but at the end of the day I’m just doing as best as I can, working hard, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”