Sainsbury: Babalj just needs 'love and attention'

Trent Sainsbury is excited to have Eli Babalj join his Dutch club PEC Zwolle and says his fellow Australian has a smile back on his face.

Babalj joined PEC Zwolle on loan last week from AZ Alkmaar for the rest of the season.

The 22-year old has gone through a frustrating spell at AZ since joining from Melbourne Heart in 2013, failing to break into the first team.

“He (Babalj) is good, he’s got a smile back on his face,” Sainsbury told FourFourTwo.

“He just needs that love and attention that he hasn’t been getting at the other club. I think he’ll look forward to getting some game time.

“It’s always nice to have a fellow Aussie in the team and someone I’ve known for quite a few years. It’s definitely a nice thing.”

Sainsbury is coming off a successful Asian Cup and has made 17 appearances for PEC Zwolle since arriving in January 2014.

The defender has known Babalj, who has two caps for the Socceroos, for a decade.

“Me and Eli grew up together playing football,” Sainsbury said.

“We’ve probably known each other from 13 years of age. I get along with his parents as well. It’s nice. I’ve always believed in Eli’s ability. He’s one of those players that can go either way, his attitude will stop him or he’ll press on.

“He’s got some of the best feet and touches I’ve seen for a big man. Hopefully he keeps on developing and gets that call-up.”

PEC Zwolle is currently in third place on the Eredivisie table on 39 points, 16 behind league leaders PSV Eindhoven and four behind Ajax.

“We’re playing some pretty good football at the moment,” Sainsbury said.

“We’re looking for that second spot in the league at the moment. The boys are believing, there’s a big belief amongst the team and the coaching staff that we can do something special for this small club.

“Europe’s definitely on the cards at the moment. It would take a big crisis for here on in for us to fall that far down the table. But we’re only looking up, we’re only looking at who’s ahead of us.”

Sainsbury has been linked with moves away from PEC Zwolle since starring in Australia's stunning Asian Cup triumph, but the centre-back said he is concentrating on his Dutch club.

“The attention’s nice but at the same time the transfer window’s closed and my eyes are purely focused on PEC Zwolle and what we can achieve this year,” he said.

“If we can get something nice, maybe Champions League football, it would be a big thing for this club. You never know. But I’m solely focused on PEC Zwolle and my agents can handle the talk off the field.”