Sainsbury: China won't hurt my career
Sainsbury, who is one of Ange Postecoglou’s most senior defenders in his latest youthful squad, inked a three-year deal with Jiangsu Suning in January, keeping him in China until the end of 2018.
The 24-year-old wasn’t part of the Australia squad at the 2014 World Cup following a knee injury suffered on his PEC Zwolle debut.
Sainsbury said the national team was a key consideration in his decision to leave Zwolle and the well-regarded Dutch Eredivisie for the emerging Chinese Super League.
“That’s one of the biggest things for me in the decision making,” Sainsbury told FourFourTwo.
“I know with my work rate and desire, I can stay in shape and keep up the intensity needed to perform well on the international stage.
“I love playing for my country, going into camp and seeing all the boys, playing in front of your family and friends representing your country is a massive buzz.”
Sainsbury added: “It definitely wasn’t an easy choice. I worked really hard to get to Europe and become a starter on the pitch.
“I spoke to many people who I have deep respect for and listened to their opinions.
“It’s an incredible deal and it will allow me to help the people I love and set up a future for myself.”
Sainsbury’s new club Jiangsu have spent big recently, landing Brazilian trio Ramires, Jo and Alex Teixeira.
They’re not alone, with plenty of clubs splurging on recruits, meaning Sainsbury will come up against the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gervinho, Demba Ba, Obafemi Martins and Asamoah Gyan on a regular basis.
Sainsbury said that would hold him in good stead, particularly now he’s one of the senior members of the defensive line, with Alex Wilkinson, Ivan Franjic and Jason Davidson overlooked for the latest squad.
The Perth-born defender will likely pair with Matt Spiranovic alongside potential full-backs Josh Risdon, Brad Smith, Alex Gersbach and Jason Geria, who have five caps between them and are all under 23.
“To me, age doesn’t define how loud or what kind of leadership you take into the team,” Sainsbury said.
“We are in that squad with one aim and that’s to win.
“For the new players coming in it’s a massive buzz and great opportunity to showcase your talents and help cement a spot.
“If I can help them in any way, I will and the same goes for the older boys like Mile, Timmy and Millsy; if I need any help I know I can count on my team mates.”
Sainsbury is settling into life in Nanjing, a city of more than eight million people, with his girlfriend and the couple’s dog joining him now.
He said he was keen to begin learning Mandarin but said the language of football was helping him initially at a club where few of his team-mates speak English.
Sainsbury, who has already played four games for his new club, was also enthused by Jiangsu’s ambitious plans.
“The club has a good three-to-five year plan,” he said.
“Within three they want to win the league and within five the ACL. It’s not an overnight success they are looking for.
“They don’t want to skip any important steps, building from the bottom up.”