If Eli Babalj needed any extra motivation to make the most of his loan spell at PEC Zwolle, he has it in the form of a clause to make the deal permanent if all goes well.
The 22-year-old penned a deadline day loan deal until the end of the 2014-15 season with Zwolle from AZ Alkmaar on Monday afternoon.
The move curbed a frustrating period for Babalj who failed to make his AZ debut after enduring an injury-cursed first season at the club in 2013-14, before being unable to break into the first team in 2014 despite being fully fit.
Speaking to FourFourTwo, Babalj revealed he could seal a permanent stay at his new club, also home to Socceroo and fellow Perth product Trent Sainsbury.
“There’s a clause if everything goes well that I can go to Zwolle permanently,” Babalj said.
“For now, it’s about getting game time and enjoying my football again.”
Babalj will have to wait to make his debut, despite fourth-placed Zwolle taking on struggling Dordrecht on Wednesday, as the club completes the necessary paperwork in order for him to be eligible to play.
The former Melbourne Heart hitman received a phone call last Thursday from Zwolle, who saw him as a replacement for the club’s top scorer Tomas Necid, who was on loan from CSKA Moscow but set for a move to Juventus.
However, Necid’s Italian switch fell through on deadline day, meaning Babalj will now face stiff competition for a first-team berth.
Zwolle technical director Gerard Nijkamp was positive about Babalj’s attitude regarding the situation and the player reiterated that.
“It’s a bit unfortunate but there’s competition everywhere no matter which club you’re at in the world,” Babalj said.
“Wherever you go, you’re not going to walk into the team.
“I haven’t played a lot of senior football in a while so hopefully I can get some minutes off the bench first and get myself into form.”
After a difficult period at AZ which Babalj wasn’t keen to discuss, he admitted he was excited by his new challenge.
“I’m excited about a new start and a new opportunity at a club that is doing really well this year,” Babalj said.
“I want to get some game time. I wasn’t getting that at AZ.
“I think this is a good move for me now and I’m glad to be back fighting for a spot in the team. I feel really excited and I’m looking forward to it.”
Babalj’s Australian teammate Sainsbury was due to return to Zwolle on Tuesday.
It is an unlikely reunion for the Perth products who came through the WA youth ranks from Under-13s to Under-15s level, on to the National Training Centre and Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. They also played together for the Joeys and Young Socceroos.
Their respective careers are at very different points currently, with Sainsbury this week lifting the Asian Cup with the Socceroos and being named in the team of the tournament.
Babalj laughed that he’s been brought to Zwolle to get Sainsbury grounded after his recent achievements.
“I’ve been brought to Zwolle to bring him back to earth, after winning the Asian Cup and being player of the match in the final,” Babalj said.
“I’ll be pulling his head back in. I’m really looking forward to playing again with him.
“We’re both Perth boys. We’ve played in all the state teams together, the institutes together and all the under-age national teams together, so we know each other really well.
“It’s a small world.”comments