Missing magician Daniel Arzani is heading to the United Arab Emirates to cheer on the Socceroos at the AFC Asian Cup, vowing to be back in pre-season training for Celtic in the northern summer.
How Graham Arnold could have done with the just-turned 20-year-old’s unorthodox and beguiling gifts to bolster Australia’s defense of their continental crown, especially after the shock 1-0 opening loss against unfancied Jordan.
But the attacking weapon is just two months into his rehab following ACL surgery, and his presence at Friday night’s clash between Palestine and Australia will be in a cheer-leading capacity only.
The nation’s brightest young gun was stretchered off just 22 minutes into a captivating debut for Celtic in October.
Having undergone surgery in Barcelona, he celebrated Christmas, New Year and his birthday back home in Sydney with his family.
Prior to jetting to Dubai, en route back to Glasgow, an upbeat Arzani told The World Game: “The biggest thing is I’ll be back for pre-season.
“I’m having the best treatment and have been looked after really well with the rehab so far. I’m looking forward to getting back stronger and better.
“I’ll get this done and make sure I do it properly because I’ve got to ensures it’s not something that hurts me in the future.”
On a two-season loan with the Hoops from parent club Manchester City, Arzani has been forced to temper his natural exuberance.
“I’ve got a bit impatient ... I just want to go for a kick with my mates while I’m back home, just pass the ball about, or have a session with my dad (John),” he added.
“But I can’t and I can’t quite get my head around that yet. “It’ll be worse when I go back to Celtic because everyone will be playing games, other young players will be doing well.
“It’s a frustrating one, but one that helps you ultimately.”
Despite Australia’s concerning Asian Cup start, Arzani believes they can still go deep into the tournament, so long as they find a way to “put teams to the sword”.
“These these games are hard because you’re playing against teams that just sit off and want to hit you on the counter,” he explained.
“They’re really not that interested in playing, and against teams like that it’s about putting them to the sword with the chances that come your way because you’re not going to get too many.
“The ball is not actually in play that long with all the time wasting. We had our chances against Jordan, especially towards the end, but it just didn’t work out the way we wanted.
“Palestine and Syria will be more of the same. I expect them to sit back, and if they get a goal they’ll be looking to try and close the game down.
“That’s what Asia is like and what you expect to come up against. We’ll have to deal with that.
“I’m going to see the boys, say hello to everyone and watch the game against Palestine.
“Then I’m back to Glasgow to continue my rehab there.
“I was really hoping to play at the Asian Cup but it wasn’t to be.”
Reflecting back on the moment his season ended after a seemingly innocuous incident in the 5-0 defeat of Dundee, Arzani is fatalistic.
“It was frustrating because it felt like it was going to be my game when I came on, and I felt I would have got more opportunities after that to work my way into the team slowly,” he said.
“It took me about two-and-a-half months to build up to where I was before the injury, in terms of getting my fitness right, getting my head right and starting to play.
“I was in a really good place. Now it’s just about getting back to where I was before and kicking on from there.
“When I got injured I wasn’t sure what it was at the time but it was very painful. I was told you normally get a popping sound (with an ACL rupture) but there was never anything like that.
“I was hoping it would just be a strain. But I’ve just copped all this on the chin and I’m using it to my advantage as much as I can.”