Australia defender Jade North has ruled out an imminent return to the A-League, insisting his immediate future lies in Japan.
Though his club side Consadale Sapporo has been relegated to the J2 next season after a horror year in which it has accumulated just 14 points from 29 games, North has been one of its few shining lights.
His performances have brought him back into the national team fold and his mission now is to remain front and centre of coach Holger Osieck’s FIFA World Cup plans.
“I am very happy in Japan and I am hoping that next month when the clubs around the country look at sorting out their squads for next season there will be an opportunity to stay,” said North who has been heavily linked with Melbourne Victory.
“Sapporo has been happy with me and want me to stay but with the club going down budgets will most likely be cut and so there is some uncertainty there.”
North’s contract expires at the end of November and his Australian agent Buddy Farah says that in addition to a possible contract extension at Sapporo there is interest in him from a high-riding J2 club and also one in the top flight.
“That’s certainly the case,” he said. “Things will become a lot clearer next month but Jade has impressed in Japan and his preference is to remain there.”
Jade, who has made 21 appearances for the club this season, added: “The fans are great here and if anything can be worked out I would love to stay.
“When I signed originally they were going to give me a two-year deal but then they were concerned that if they went back down they wouldn’t be able to afford to keep me, so it ended up being a deal for one season.
“Being in Japan has got me back into the Australian team and I am very settled here.”
In the short term, North is seeking to resolve a niggling groin injury which prevented him lining up in Australia’s come-from-behind 2-1 win over Iraq this month and has been plaguing him intermittently for a couple of months.
“I’ve been carrying the injury for a little while now and now that we’ve gone down I can rest up and get on top of it.
“Hopefully I can get a few more games in before the end of the season once I’ve done that.
“Travelling with Australia and hard training flared it up a bit and now I just need strengthen it up.”
While there has been an influx of Socceroos to the Middle East, North would rather stay put, explaining: “I’m determined to stay involved with my country and Japan I feel is the best place for me to do that.
“I want to be playing at the highest level can and the J-League is the best there is in Asia.
He believes Australia is now in the box seat to seal its ticket to Rio, saying: “We left it late against Iraq but we did the job with those two goals in the last 10 minutes and we seem to respond the best sometimes when our backs are to the wall.
“Now with those three home games to come the boys are feeling very confident they can go on with the job.
“Iraq, Oman and Jordan have to come to us now – and they are going to find that very tough.
“I think we are now well placed to finish second in the group. Japan had it nice and sweet with early home games and we’ve had to do it the hard way but I believe we’re going to finish the group strongly.”
Socceroos coach Holger Osieck believes veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has a key role to play in their FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.