"Establish myself in that league" - Joe Gauci's thoughts on 'surreal' Aston Villa transfer
Subway Socceroos goalkeeper Joe Gauci capped off a memorable first Asian Cup campaign with a January move to Premier League giants Aston Villa, a moment which he shared while inside camp.
Having spent almost all of the January transfer period away from his home in Adelaide, the 23-year-old had the unique experience of transfer negotiation while in national team camp.
With the process now completed, Gauci recalls the emotions that came with signing for a English Premier League club, while also preparing for an Asian Cup quarter-final tie.
"It's been hectic, to say the least, the last couple of days have felt like a week. But it's been a great experience, sorting everything out, it's my first experience of a transfer. So it's all new to me."
"I think it was an opportunity that straightaway made my ears perk up."
"Yeah, I was getting towards the end of the month and then I was approached to join Villa. The conversations that I've had with the club and coaching staff really reinforced that it's going to be a move that'll take my career to another level."
"[Socceroos teammates] have been super supportive, it's been tremendous to be able to share this moment with this group of players and the staff members as well. It's a little bit different for my family who's back home, we're experiencing the joy from a distance, over the phone."
"A few of these boys I have known for a long, long time. Aiden O'Neill and Kye Rowles were there with me at the Mariners, my first club, when I was 17-18 years old, and now we're here at the Asian Cup."
Taking in the enormity of the signing, the South Australian remains steadfast in what the change will mean for himself and what he wants to get out of the experience under an Unai Emery coached side.
"It's massive. As a boy from Australia, the Premier League is the pinnacle of football. It's really surreal now to know that I'm going to have that experience of Premier League football first-hand, to learn and develop off players, coaches, and staff that have had really successful careers in the Premier League and worldwide."
"So it's going to be an experience that I'm really looking forward to. It'll be a bit of a learning curve along the way, moving overseas and experiencing a different culture, but this is part of football, and I'm really looking forward to it."
Gauci joins an Aston Villa goalkeeping group which contains two experienced internationals, 34-year-old Swede Robin Olsen and FIFA World Cup and Golden Glove winner Emiliano Martinez.
The Socceroo understands his challenge when it comes to competing for a place in the starting side, however through conversations with the club and belief in his abilities, Gauci is confident he can leave a lasting legacy on the club and league.
"They've identified me and my talents, believe in me and the progress that I'm going to be able to make, to really push and go in, work hard, develop my game and take it to another level."
"I have that ambition of establishing myself in the league as all players do,"
"I want to play games but understand I have a fantastic, world class goalkeeper in the number one spot. It's going to be surreal to be able to work day in day out with Martinez and learn off him."
"He has been phenomenal for club and country so it's really exciting to go in and work with him and with Javi as well, the goalkeeper coach, who is one of the best in the world and has established a lot of other top goalkeepers."
The now Villan will leave behind his hometown club Adelaide United, a side which he grew up supporting, having only just become a member of the club's leadership team.
Gauci was quick to display his gratitude toward the club that made him fall in love with football, while also helping him make his aspirations a reality.
"Adelaide have been everything for me thus far. I joined the club not having played a professional game, having come off two single-year deals at two different clubs, I really wasn't sure of the direction of my career."
"I was fortunate enough to get game-time, that was really the foundation of my development and the staff members, the players, everyone that's been involved, present and past has really built an environment that's allowed me to flourish, to be myself, to express myself."
"Ultimately, that's led me to have the performances that I've had, without that, this would not be possible. I can't thank them enough for what they've done for me."
"I need to thank the tremendous support and love that I've been shown over the course of the three and a half years since I made my debut, playing at Coopers Stadium, the love that I felt from the whole stadium, from the Red Army, from everyone."
"As a local boy who's grown up in the stands, it's really come full circle."
Having been inspired by the great Australian goalkeepers of years gone by who aspired to play at the highest level, Gauci hopes to be the one to leave his mark on the next generation of shot-stoppers.
"I'm really ambitious and want that level of impact on the young goalkeepers coming through in Adelaide, or in Australia, that's something that's quite powerful. So I really hope that for the people that have watched me in Australia, I hope I have been able to motivate them, especially the next generation."