Promising Australian midfielder Mustafa Amini has set himself for a huge pre-season as he tries to win a new contract at Borussia Dortmund after an injury-interrupted term.
The 21-year-old has only recently returned to running without pain after missing the second half of the 2013-14 season due to a hamstring injury which was more severe than initially expected.
Amini felt his hamstring on the first day back in training after the winter break, which eventually was diagnosed as an inflamed hamstring tendon.
The injury was a major setback for Amini who has one season left on his Dortmund contract.
However, he was buoyed by his good form for Dortmund II prior to the winter break, which prompted his inclusion in the travelling squad for a number of games.
Amini believes that’s a positive sign for his future, as long as he can regain his fitness after a frustrating run on the sidelines.
"They gave me an indication in the first-half of the season when they brought me into the first team," Amini told FourFourTwo when asked whether Dortmund planned to offer him a new deal.
"I got a taste of it in first-team training, because I was doing well in the second team."
After 15 impressive appearances and a goal for Dortmund II, Amini got as close as he has yet to a first-team debut, named on the bench for Dortmund’s DFB Pokal clash with Saarbrucken in early December.
Amini also travelled as 19th man for matches away to Olympique Marseille and Hoffenheim in the same month, but missed out on the final squad with Nuri Sahin proving his fitness.
Unfortunately, Amini’s own injury concerns have halted his progress but he is buoyed by the fact he got so close to a first-team berth.
"The coach said to me ’I know what you can do and how far you can go, it’s good that I’ve seen this, but just work hard and make sure you’re as fit as possible in pre-season’," Amini said.
Amini will return to Dortmund pre-season two weeks prior to the rest of the available squad in mid-June in a bid to build up his fitness, having not been able to train fully since the injury.
The former Central Coast Mariners man has spent much of the past few months in the gym strengthening his core and hamstring to ensure the injury doesn’t happen again.
Amini said he was looking forward to linking up with his high-profile team-mates in pre-season who had made him a better player than he was in the A-League.
"When you’re training around guys like Lewandowski, Mkhitaryan, Reus, Gundogan and Sahin, you learn plenty," he said.
"It’s a different world of football.
"One time when I first was here, Sebastian Kehl and Neven Subotic told me, ’don’t be scared because they are first-teamers, we are all the same’.
"If I made a mistake in training, I’d say 'sorry' and they’d say ’it’s football, don’t worry, just enjoy the game’."
Amini also revealed he had been called up by the Afghanistan Football Federation in January to play for their national team in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, where the eventual winner earns qualification to the 2015 Asian Cup to be played in Australia.
The Sydney-born midfielder, whose father was born in Afghanistan, rejected the call-up and insisted his focus was one day playing for the Socceroos.
"I said no, because my priority is to be in the Socceroos," Amini said.