Playing in a major European final was simply a dream when midfielder Ajdin Hrustic left Melbourne as a teenager to pursue his football career.
Hrustic was just 15 when he travelled to the other side of the world, spending time at the youth setups of Nottingham Forest, Austria Vienna and Schalke before landing in Holland with Groningen, where he would make his senior debut in 2017.
Fast forward five years and Hrustic is not only a key member of the Socceroos squad, but on the cusp of becoming the first Australian male player to feature in a major European contest since Mark Schwarzer in 2010 when his German club Eintracht Frankfurt take on Scottish powerhouse Rangers in Seville on Wednesday (Thursday 0500 AEST).
Having already beaten Spanish giants Barcelona and English Premier League outfit West Ham on their route to the final, it’s been a journey that Hrustic still has to pinch himself to believe has happened.
“It’s something that you can’t describe,” the 25-year-old told AAP.
“You’ve got to live it to feel it kind of.
“Sometimes I don’t believe it, but it is what it is, and I’m going to be playing in a Europa League final, which is something massive.
“Something you dream of as a little kid and I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to get so far, to come so far with my career and hopefully there’s a lot more to come.”
Hrustic’s role at Eintracht has mainly been off the bench during their Europa League run, as the mid-table Bundesliga side have thrilled their fans to reach a first European final in over 40 years.
Standing in their way is a Rangers team who have already eliminated two German clubs – Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig – on their way to the final.
Hrustic isn’t bothered by that record however, saying Eintracht are heading to the final with a nothing-to-lose mentality.
“We’ve got zero defeats so far in the Europa League and we’ve managed to come across some of the biggest teams in Europe, if not the world,” he said.
“We’re not going to underestimate Rangers but we’ve got confidence and we’re going to head into the game with our chest out and our heads up.
“The manager’s announced also himself we might not be the best players individually, and they might not be the best staff individually, but as a team there’s something special and this is something that sums up kind of our club and our fans.”