Socceroo Aaron Mooy has turned his back on an appeal by his Chinese club to return to locked-down Shanghai in order to prepare for Australia's must-win World Cup qualifiers.
The former Premier League midfielder has endured a torrid couple of years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has largely wrecked his time with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Port after he joined them from Brighton in August 2020.
The 31-year-old has been reduced to a bit-part role during the latter stages of Australia's World Cup qualifying campaign due to a lack of match fitness.
He also missed March's crucial games against Japan and Saudi Arabia after testing positive to the virus himself.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has recalled Mooy for the Asian play-off against United Arab Emirates in Qatar but revealed it wasn't without a battle to avoid Mooy returning to China for pre-season preparations.
"The club was trying to force him to go back but if he wants to be here with us, and I won't release the details of what that took for Aaron, but he stayed," Arnold said.
"He's made a big sacrifice to be here with us.
"He was over in Scotland and he was due to go back, with the family and that didn't happen.
"I can't disclose the details but I just want to say he's made a massive, a huge sacrifice to stay in Scotland."
Arnold and Socceroos high-performance coordinator Andrew Clark both travelled to Scotland to help Mooy train for the upcoming international window before the player travelled to Dubai to continue his training with Australian players whose seasons had already finished.
"We've missed his quality on the pitch," Arnold said.
"He's another player that we've missed enormously, right through the campaign.
"To have him here, I'm not saying he will start the game but we've got him here for his experience and his quality."
Arnold has named a 29-man squad with Australia to face South America's Peru for a spot at November's World Cup should they defeat UAE.
As well as Mooy, the Socceroos coach has recalled Tom Rogic, Adam Taggart, Jackson Irvine and Riley McGree after they were all unavailable for the previous camp in March.
Melbourne City pair Mathew Leckie and Jamie Maclaren are also set to play crucial roles after Leckie was injured for both the Japan and Saudi Arabia games while Maclaren didn't travel to Jeddah as he was getting married.
Arnold has received criticism for overlooking recently crowned Johnny Warren Medallist Jake Brimmer as well as in-form Central Coast Mariners pair Jason Cummings and Mark Birighitti.
"Brimmer's been fantastic but I only can pick - this squad we picked 28, 29 - and then in front of Jakey in his position, you've already got Tommy Rogic, Ajdin Hrustic and Riley McGree," Arnold said.
"It makes that choice quite difficult.
"Jason Cummings, again, I look at him as a player and he's very similar to Jamie McLaren.
"He's very different to Taggart and (Mitch) Duke and (Nicholas) D'Agostino. I look at him as very similar to Jamie and Jamie was the leading goalscorer in the A-League.
"I've spoken to Jason about it and he clearly understands where he's at."
Australia will train in Qatar on Monday ahead of a friendly against Jordan in Doha on Wednesday (4am Thursday AEST).
Australian Associated Press
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