Australian midfielder Stefan Mauk is strongly considering leaving Dutch club NEC Nijmegen following their relegation from the Eredivisie last week and hasn’t ruled out an A-League return.
The 21-year-old, who helped Adelaide United win the 2015/16 A-League double, endured a nightmare first campaign in Europe where he was frozen out, only making three appearances.
Craig Goodwin’s heroics for Sparta Rotterdam condemned NEC to the relegation play-offs where they fell to NAC Breda, leaving Mauk facing football in the Eerste Divisie next term.
“I’m really thinking about moving,” Mauk told FourFourTwo.
“I don’t think staying in the second division is a good option for myself. I’ve got to weigh everything up.
“The club hasn’t spoken to everyone individually yet so my agent will speak to them as soon as possible to find out what to do moving forward.
“I just need to play. Coming here my reason to choose NEC was I thought I’d have quite a good chance of playing.
“Next season is a massive season for me just to get playing, whether that’s in a different European league or back in Australia or wherever, I just need to be playing at a good level and playing regularly.”
Mauk, who won Adelaide’s Rising Star award in 2015/16, had interest from English Championship clubs in January but no move materialised.
The Australian acknowledged finding a new club after a season with minimal football would be tough, but said the January interest provided encouragement.
“It’s not going to be easy after having a season of not playing,” Mauk said.
“Personally after having quite a good year the year before, hopefully they’ll look at that and I’ve got to hope someone is willing to take a punt on me.
“That’s what it comes down to now and it’s down to me to perform once I get there.
“It’s a waiting game, it’s frustrating but it’s the life of a footballer where you don’t know what’s around the corner.”
Mauk, who also had a spell at Melbourne City, said returning to the A-League was a viable option too, although he preferred to stay in Europe.
“It’s definitely a possibility, especially coming over here and seeing the standard,” Mauk said.
“I can say the A-League is a good league. The standard is higher than what people in Australia think it is.
“After doing well in the a-league and coming over to Europe, my preference is to stay in Europe as long as the option is a good one where I’ll get some game-time.”
NEC have already announced a number of backroom staff changes including the exit of their football director Bart van Ingen, but confirmed they won’t be forced into selling players despite their relegation.
Coach Peter Hyballa, who had frozen out Mauk, was sacked late in the season, with caretaker boss Ron de Groot giving the Australians two of his three appearances.
Mauk said those two appearances gave him hope there was a future for him at NEC, but there’s no guarantees on de Groot remains in the top job.
“It was good to be back out there and involved again,” Mauk said. “It was good to play some minutes but it means nothing after being relegated.
“I guess the season was extremely disappointing for myself personally and the whole club.
“My first season in Europe personally wasn’t good. I’m really unsure of what’s next around the corner.”