The mushrooming stature of Socceroos midfielder Mustafa Amini has been highlighted by Danish club AGF handing him the captain’s arm-band during pre-season.
Entering his fourth year with the Superliga outfit, Amini, 26, led his teammates out in the recent friendly against former club Randers.
And with regular skipper Niklas Backman currently on the injured list, Amini is likely to skipper the club again in Friday night’s final warm-up against Hamburg ahead of Tuesday week’s season-opener against Hobro.
It’s unclear whether Amini will be anointed on a longer term basis - but either way it’s recognition of the esteem the Central Coast Mariners product is now held in after 94 league appearances for AGF.
“It’s nice to be recognised as one of the leaders and being here probably the longest at the club at the moment,” said Amini from the team’s pre-season camp in Germany.
“I’ve played a lot of games and picked up a lot of experience. If I’m captain again against Hamburg it will be a great honour.
“To lead a European club at the age of 26 is, I think, an achievement for any Australian.
“Leaving home at 18 (for Borussia Dortmund) and to be now in this position at a big club like Aarhus is a great feeling.”
Amini seemingly cemented himself into coach Graham Arnold’s 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification plans with a dynamic and purposeful performance in last month’s 1-0 friendly loss to a full-strength Korea Republic.
It was only his sixth cap but he showed in an experimental line-up just how far he has progressed.
“Arnie wanted us to put our best foot forward and hopefully that’s what a lot of us did,” he added.
“I was happy with how I went but you can always do better and I’ll keep striving to improve.
“Arnie has given a lot of players now the chance to prove what they’re worth.
“With what lies ahead with the national team it’s an exciting time to be a part of it all.
“It’s going to be a long road to the World Cup and we’ve also got the Copa America coming up, which will be an amazing challenge for the national team.
“Touch wood I haven’t been injured in the last four years of my career and have managed 30 games every season.
“It just goes to show if you’re playing consistently at a good level you’ll get chosen.”
Amini is entering the final year of his contract at AGF, and is open to possibly moving on at some point.
Acknowledging it’s a “big year” ahead, he added: “Football is a funny game - you can’t really say what you’re going to do. Things can change in the click of a finger.
“I’m happy at AGF and hopefully we have a strong season and you never know what can happen.
"All options are open.”
Amini will be mentoring fellow Australian midfielder Zach Duncan, with the teenager signing a four-year deal having departed Brisbane Roar.
“It’s nice to have another Aussie here,” he said. “I think it’s a good move coming at his age and trying to get into the European environment because it’s not an easy thing.
“He’s working his way. It’s tough - a different tempo, a different life, a different everything.
“It’s good that he’s taking the challenge. I respect that and hopefully he takes the chance and stays here and one day takes over my spot at the club.
“He’s a raw talent - he only played a handful of A-League games.
“He’s fighting for positions with international players - it’s a challenge but they’re quite happy with him at the moment.
“He’s got to keep battling. He’s a hard worker and gives everything.”