Mitch Nichols believes he can flourish among the bigger fish of the J.League as he prepares for his dream move to Cerezo Osaka.
An expectant Nichols will fly to Japan on Wednesday to join his new teammates - including Uruguay star Diego Forlan - for pre-season training.
And he is determined to take his game to another level - and push his claims for a FIFA 2014 World Cup call up when the J.League season kicks off in early March.
Relieved that Melbourne Victory finally accepted Cerezo’s revised bid of $400,000 last week after much uncertainty over his future, the creative midfielder now can’t wait to prove his worth after sealing a three-year deal and nearly trebling his wages.
A standout for Victory this season, Nichols - talking for the first time since speculation erupted over his future - knows he will need to raise the bar again in a competition awash with foreign talent and home-grown stars.
“I’ve always wanted to test myself overseas and see what I am capable of and I am grateful for the chance,” said Brisbane Roar product Nichols, whose previous flirtations with moves to Randers (Denmark) and KV Mechelen (Belgium) came to nothing.
“I am excited because at 24 I think I have a lot of improving still to do and going to the J.League is going to give me that opportunity.
“The coach Ranko Popovic has made it clear that he wants me and that’s flattering to any player - I will make sure I try and repay him.” Nichols, who signed a new two-year deal with Victory in May, and has made 14 appearances this season, said he was grateful to coach Kevin Muscat and the club’s board for not standing in his way.
“There was some uncertainty there for a while but you have to be patient in these situations and see how things play out,” he said.
“I told the boss that I wanted to go because these opportunities don’t come along too often and I didn’t want to miss it.
“Fortunately, the club came around and they accepted the offer. I like to think I’ve done well this season and that’s why I got noticed in the first place - and I am feeling really positive about the future.
“Everybody knows that what a hard competition the J.League is - and it’s good to have some time now to get to know my new teammates and get up there and get settled in.
“The club is ambitious. They finished fourth last season and want to do even better.
“Technically, I think going there can only improve my game and for me this is a dream move. I have been keen to play overseas my whole career and I am going to make the most of it.
“I’ve enjoyed my time with Victory and I think they will be right up there come the end of the season, the club hasn’t really missed a beat since Kevin Muscat took over from Ange (Postecoglou).”
On linking with 34-year-old former Manchester United, Villarreal, Atletico Madrid and Inter striker Forlan, Nichols said: “That’s an added bonus. His record speaks for itself and you can only benefit and learn from being around players of his calibre.”
Forlan - winner of the Golden Ball for the best player at the 2010 World Cup having scored five goals in Uruguay's run to the semi-finals - left Brazil's Internacional during the week to try his luck with Cerezo.
“He’s pretty much done it all in the game. He’s played over 100 games for his country and is still a great player,” added Nichols.
Vissel Kobe came from behind twice to win 3-2 at Kashima Antlers and move top of the J.League.