He won two A-League titles with the Brisbane Roar before departing during the 2012-13 season, and Erik Paartalu is content he made the right choice
By PETER DAVIS and PADDY HIGGS
Tianjin Teda midfielder Erik Paartalu has "no regrets" over leaving Brisbane Roar for China, but has wished his former club all the best.
The 27-year-old had two A-League title-winning seasons at the Roar, before departing Brisbane for Tianjin in January.
His exit was symptomatic of a difficult first half of the 2012-13 campaign for the Roar, with Rado Vidosic - Ange Postecoglou's replacement after the two championship seasons - lasting just 13 matches into his stint as head coach before being moved to a technical director role.
The changes at Brisbane have continued under new coach Mike Mulvey, with several championship-winning players since following Paartalu out the door.
"After Ange left there was a bit of a transition period," Paartalu told Goal.
"We didn't bring any new players in and kept the same staff and it became a bit stale and I think that's why we had a very sluggish start to the season and that's why we had the coach change.
"With a new coach you never know what you are going to get but he has new ideas and moved on a couple of players and brought a couple in.
"The Brisbane Roar club is moving in a different direction now in terms of what they expect as success in the next couple of years.
"It's very difficult to go on the same unbeaten streak of 36 games and win back to back trophies but that's the challenge now for the club and I wish them well."
Paartalu's last months at the club were overshadowed by a contract standoff he then described as "frustrating" and a failed move to United Arab Emirates club Bani Yas.
The former Greenock Morton midfielder still holds the club close to his heart, but is content with his decision to depart when he did.
"I have absolutely no regrets," he said.
"I went there for the two seasons and played my heart out and played 85 consecutive matches for the club, never missed a training session and never missed a game, so from that point of view I know I gave everything I possible could to the club and the results show that.
"That's how I feel about every team I play for - I just try to give it my best."
However, Paartalu admitted watching Brisbane is tough for him now: "I found it a little bit difficult to watch a team I used to play for. It was easier to focus on my next challenge," he said.
Sydney-born Paartalu has started in all eleven games so far for Tianjin Teda, scoring three goals - including a brace against fellow strugglers Wuhan Zall.
He seems to be enjoying his time in China despite the club being hit by a six-point deduction from match-fixing offences committed 10 years ago: "My football on a personal level has flourished because I have been enjoying it so much," he said.
"It's not great for the club, but on a personal level I enjoy playing week-in, week-out and taking the experience of the first season in.
"I genuinely believe that we will keep fighting until the end. There's never been a team I have been in where we have just given up not even at the half-way point."
While Tianjin's recent form has been much-improved and included just two defeats in the last six, there are no illusions about the task ahead.
Chinese Super League runners-up as recent as 2010, Tianjin sit rock bottom and have just two points to their credit.
"It's going to be a long, tough season, the likes of Wuhan, Changchun Yatai and ourselves are going to be battling it out for relegation. It's a scary thing and everyone realizes that now."
When asked if a return to Brisbane Roar would ever be possible, Paartalu remains focused but acknowedged that a repeat of the club's previous success would be tough.
"It would be very hard to replicate the times and the success that we had. Certainly the people at Brisbane Roar will be in my heart forever, so you never know," he said.
Beijing-based Peter Davis watched Liaoning Whowin play Chengdu Blades in 2008 and has been hooked on Chinese football ever since. He is a regular contributor to Wild East Football and can be found on Twitter at @peteydavis