Socceroos winger Ajdin Hrustic says he’s "open for the next step", as he closes in on a move to either Eintracht Frankfurt or FC Koln in Germany’s Bundesliga.
Frankfurt have emerged as favourites to snare the 24-year-old described by Socceroos assistant Rene Meulensteen as “a special talent”, though a fee with current club Groningen has yet to be agreed.
If Hrustic departs the Eredivisie for Germany - where he played at youth level for Schalke - he will join fellow Socceroo Mathew Leckie as the sole Australians in the Bundesliga this season.
“I’m ready for a new challenge and the Bundesliga is one of the best leagues in the world,” Hrustic told The World Game.
“Looking towards the World Cup in a couple of years, it would be a great place to be playing.
“We’re talking about two great clubs with great stadiums and massive fan bases, and having to make a choice like this is a great problem to have.
“Groningen (with whom he’s contracted until mid-2021) have tried to extend my contract.
“But I’ve told them I’m ready and open for the next step - I feel like I need something new in my life.
“It will be one of the two, unless Groningen don’t accept the offer. You never know in football. I’m hoping for an answer as quickly as possible.”
Hrustic joined Groningen - the renewed home of Dutch great Arjen Robben - in 2017, making 25 appearances last season with three goals and three assists.
His dead ball acumen is already well known to Socceroos fans, and his ability to thread a defence-splitting pass and drift menacingly across the front third has won an army of admirers.
Manchester-based Meulensteen has been closely monitoring his progression, and believes a Bundesliga switch will propel him to another level.
“It’s another step up for him - and for me he can be a special talent,” he said.
“He has some excellent technical aspects. His free-kick delivery is fantastic and he can shoot from distance.
“He’s also very versatile and can play out wide or as a number ten, depending on what the manager wants.
“He has a fantastic left foot for whipping in crosses and you can also use him on the right.
“He’s heading towards the peak of his career and we want to see our Socceroos players in the best possible leagues, and the Bundesliga is one of them.”
Hrustic laughs off reports in the Netherlands that the arrival of former Bayern Munich maestro Robben has precipitated his desire to move on.
“I saw a few people writing that I’d lost my spot and that’s why I’m leaving but that’s far from the truth,” he added.
“There’s been a connection there on the field between us in pre-season.”
Whether they get to play together again is speculative, with Hrustic saying of his likely move: “It could happen tomorrow or next week, that’s how football is.
“I’m at the age where I’m starting to mature and I feel ready to take a new path.
“I’ve heard only great things about both clubs and I’m also grateful for the chance I’ve had at Groningen.
“I’m all about improving - even at doing the things I do well now.
“Germany is a different challenge but I don’t think I’d have a problem adapting.”