Penrith-born Socceroo Brad Smith had it all playing for Liverpool in the Premier League, but he's never felt quite as home as he does at MLS club Seattle Sounders.
Smith has had an incredibly varied career for a 26-year-old. A Penrith lad, he never really had a taste of Australian football until he was in the Olyroos, as he jetsetted to England at just 14-years-old to join Liverpool's academy.
He went on to represent England at U/17, U/19 and U/20 level before switching his allegiance at a peak period in his career, while he was making his breakthrough at the Premier League giants.
Then...the fairytale all just didn't quite go as planned. A high-profile move to Bournemouth alongside fellow prodigy Jordan Ibe, designed to give the incredible pairing a tiki-taka platform to become Premier League stars fizzled out for both.
It was supposed to be perfect: Jurgen Klopp hailed the transfers as ideal because of a special buy-back clause inserted on both players that would see Bournemouth's enigmatic boss Eddie Howe refine their edges before Liverpool made them stars.
Flash forward though, and Smith has had five clubs in five years to go with two national teams and has never spent more than two professional seasons anywhere.
But after falling in love with the club during a 2018 loan that saw him - for the first time in his career - start every match for an entire season and lead his loan club to win the MLS Cup, Smith believes he's finally found home in the unlikeliest of places: Seattle.
“Football is all about a journey and everyone has a different pathway,” Smith told Sounder at Heart. “I’ve played in the Premier League, it’s the best league in the world. I’ve played for Liverpool and for me that’s a true honor.
“I came to Seattle on loan not knowing what to expect and I loved it and I decided to come back. I could have stayed in England but I wanted to come out here and be back with the Sounders family.”
Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey says family isn't an exaggeration: the club did everything in their power - "spending all our money" - to make sure Smith could return to the club on a professional deal, despite the rather outlandish nature of an MLS club acquiring a young Premier League player. They knew they wanted him back the second he left, they even took the unusual step of protecting his MLS rights, so no other MLS club could steal him, should he return.
It was the same ethos Liverpool had implied earlier in Smith's career, but this time there was a tinge of destiny about the move.
“We always want players that, first and foremost, really want to be here,” Lagerwey said. “Brad really wanted to be here. Brad had other offers, he had other opportunities [and] things he could have done, but he chose the Sounders and we’re certainly grateful he made that decision.
“He was willing to be flexible with what we had available this year,” Lagerwey said. “We structured the deal in a way that allowed us to get him in now. We able to get more on the back end for Brad, and we were able to pull it off.”
In return, Smith pledged his allegiance, telling media that while a deal was always in the pipeline at some stage, despite all the logistical challenges faced, he never lost faith nor desire.
“Since I left, I was in contact with Adrian, and Garth with my agent. We’d been in talks for awhile, with Covid and stuff getting the logistics right and making sure the deal was right for both parties.
"It was sort of a long, short process.”