Socceroos striker Adam Taggart is in the box seat to lead the line for the K League All-Stars against Juventus later this month as his hot streak with Suwon Bluewings continues unabated.
Taggart, 26, took his goal tally to 10 from 17 appearances in Wednesday night’s 3-2 win over Incheon United, and is the competition’s leading scorer - one clear of FC Seoul’s Serbian import Aleksandar Pesic.
Voting ceases this weekend for the All-Stars squad, with the July 26 clash in Seoul against Cristiano Ronaldo and company to be announced on Tuesday.
However, Taggart - who has rocketed into the FIFA World Cup calculations of Socceroos coach Graham Arnold - isn’t getting too excited at the impending recognition of his recent feats.
“It’s one of those boxes to tick off the bucket list if I’m selected - but sometimes these things aren’t the best for you because you already play so many games,” Taggart said.
“They’re great games for publicity and things like that but ultimately you’re here for the business side of things - the league and the FA Cup where we’ve reached the semi-final stage.”
Whilst pleased with how quickly he’s settled in, since arriving from Brisbane Roar, Taggart - who returned to the Australia team for last month’s 1-0 loss to Korea Republic after a five-year hiatus - isn’t doing cartwheels just yet.
“It’s been good ... a few of my appearances have been off the bench (four) and while I’m happy with the goals, I still think I’ve got a lot more to offer,” he said.
“It’s a challenging league - every time you get the ball there are three or four players around you and it forces you to become a better player.
“While I’m confident scoring goals, I just want to make sure that my overall performances are also getting better - which I believe they are.
“It’s a tough challenge here with the amount of games you play and it’s something you’ve got to make sure you’re always ready for.”
Taggart sees a vast disparity between the K League and A-League.
“In the A-League most teams have a starting XI and that’s about it,” he said.
“We have a big squad here and it’s important to rotate to make sure everybody is fresh and motivated.
“All the young boys here are top-quality as well and there’s huge competition for places.
"That’s what you want really and it’s what makes you a real player.
“If you go through your whole career with your place in the line-up unchallenged then, in my opinion, it’s not exactly pushing you to become the best player.
“Footballers thrive on competition and I plan to keep pushing those boundaries until I can’t push them anymore.
“I love it here and hope it’s just the beginning. I think there’s a lot more to come in all aspects.”
Taggart was rewarded with 30 minutes off the bench for Australia in Busan last month, and is buzzing to be back.
“I’ve always said it’s an honour to play for the national team and I was lucky enough to make my debut for the Socceroos at 19,” he said.
“Being away from it for so long, it was always something I wanted to be a part of again.
“But I’ve never been one of those people who says ‘I should be here’ or ‘I should be there’.
“I respect all the players in the team and I know how tough it is to get in there and stay in there.
“It’s another challenge and it can only help if you’re doing well at club level.
“It’s a never-ending process – you can never just cement your spot in the national team. You have to make sure you’re performing each week, each month and each year.
“Arnie showed he wants depth in his squad with his selections against Korea.
“We were missing some really top players but I thought we did well, which is a good sign for the future.
“The way Arnie approached things in naming an experimental team was a smart move for Australian football.
“He wants to build a team which is both effective and entertaining.”
That said, Taggart didn’t head to Suwon with the Socceroos as his main motivation.
“I’ve come here to see how far I can go as a player - and it’s a step in the right direction,” Taggart said.
“I’m really enjoying my football ... I haven’t been this happy and jovial since my time with the Newcastle Jets.
“Maybe being back in the Socceroos is my reward for enjoying football again, as funny as that sounds.”
Taggart is contracted until the end of this season, with a two-year option, which he’ll be looking to take up.
It’s understood the club are thinking along the same lines.
“I hope I can stay here for a long time,” he said.
“Some people are better when they’re under pressure to play for their contract, some are better when they’re settled.
“I don’t know what I am to be honest. I just think it’s important to adapt to the situation.”