Alexander Baumjohann has no ill-feeling towards the Western Sydney Wanderers after being released – but the German says he has much more to deliver to another club next season.
The 32-year old was hailed by some commentators as the best passer the A-League has ever seen, only to mysteriously fall out of favour with manager Markus Babbel.
Baumjohann created 49 goalscoring chances in his 20 games, the fourth highest total in the league, with his 2.45-per-game average bettered only by Newcastle’s Dimi Petratos (3.2 per game) and Adelaide’s Craig Goodwin (2.62 per game).
However, after reflecting on his first year in Australia, Baumjohann believes that with a full pre-season and a trusting manager, he can turn those glimpses of brilliance into a season of dominance.
“I really enjoyed my first year in Australia and I want to stay here for longer. I am in talks with some clubs at the moment, but I’ll take my time to make a decision,” Baumjohann told The World Game.
“I think people now know what I can do and how much I can give to a team.
“The truth is that I arrived in A-League – which is very physical – without a complete pre-season. That makes it difficult to get into the flow and rhythm of any team at any level.
“You want to spend that time getting to know your teammates, learning the angle of their runs and how they like to receive the ball. That’s a big part of my game.”
Many critics noted that other Wanderers players were slow to react to Baumjohann’s quick feet and passes, which repeatedly unpicked defences.
“It would have been nice to have registered many more assists, but I don't blame anybody for not scoring those goals. It’s a team game,” he said.
“Anyone can see that creating assists and passing are my biggest strengths. I wanted to bring that here.
“And maybe sometime, rather than looking for the pass, I need to score some of those goals by myself.”
Despite playing just a solitary season with the club, Baumjohann says he was “overwhelmed” by the support of the Wanderers fans, who would frequently reach out in support.
“That was the most special part. They took me in like one of their own and that was a big surprise for me. I wanted to win a title for them,” he said.
“Getting released wasn’t my decision, but I hope the club – and the fans especially – gets that trophy they all want.
“If I ever get to play at the new Parramatta Stadium, I will clap the Red and Black bloc and acknowledge the support they gave me. I will always remember it.”
Baumjohann might be 32, but he says that his body feels much younger after playing limited football in previous years.
“The truth is that I lost almost two years – 2013 and 2014 – with injuries. But I was able to rebuild and refresh mentally in that time. My body is totally recovered,” he said.
“I’ve now added a full season in Australia and my fitness is so much better than a year ago.
“Maybe (there are) some other guys my age and they are thinking about the end. I’m not. I’m excited. I’m looking at Diego Castro and thinking if he can play like that at 36 or 37, so can I.”
Naturally, everyone asks Baumjohann about why Babbel seemed to treat him so awkwardly, which involved a mix of early substitutions and, occasionally, being omitted.
“I always respect the trainer’s decision – I know they have a difficult job. I wasn’t frustrated at him personally, I just wanted to play every game. I wanted to help this team,” he said.
“My relationship with Markus was fine. He signed me, he knew about my qualities and I think I showed that on the pitch.
“But he did admit to me that he wants players for a different style of football. I understand that. Coaches need to find players that suit their system."
Baumjohann also has a key piece of advice for foreigners thinking of coming to Australia.
“The first thing I’d say is ‘don’t think the A-League is easy’. There are so many difficult things, like the hot weather, long travelling, hard pitches and the tough schedule,” he said.
“Everybody always expects from the foreigners to make the difference, but that’s unrealistic. The league is very physical and as an offensive player, I found myself getting marked all the time – sometimes by two players.”