It hasn't been an easy start to life in the Netherlands for Erick Gutierrez.
After a move late in the summer transfer window from Pachuca to PSV, the midfielder has looked to lock down a place as a regular in Mark van Bommel's starting XI.
Yet progress has been slow, with Gutierrez's first Eredivisie start not coming until December. He followed up with two more starts in December and hopes to continue the momentum through the Dutch league's winter break.
Gutierrez admitted that the speed of play in the European game came as a bit of a shock after spending the first six years of his career in his native Mexico.
"I have had trouble with that, yes, with the switch from the football that I was used to playing in Mexico," Gutierrez told AD at the club's training camp in Qatar. "Especially the pace at which everything goes here, in matches, in training sessions. That is much higher than in Mexico. I did not quite expect that. But it's the challenge I was looking for."
Most of the season, Gutierrez has been behind Gaston Pereiro, with the Uruguay international starting as an interior midfielder in both league and Champions League matches. Before the winter break, Van Bommel experimented with playing both players together.
"I think it’s tough for all players, waiting, being on the bench. I don’t think any player likes to be on the bench, but I’ve had to start there," Gutierrez told NOS. "I’ve tried to do things as well as possible, what the manager has asked me, but I think Gaston is also a great player. If he plays, I’m going to support him because he’s done things well, too.
"That’s how soccer is. We’re a team. We have to be good. There’s no jealously - in fact we get along well. It’s tough to be in that situation but you have to help when you’re in that situation."
That's not to say Gutierrez isn't enjoying that challenge of playing in a new league and living abroad for the first time. He said he and his family like life in Eindhoven, regularly going to the center of the city to have dinner or go for a stroll. On the field, he's ready to prove he's can handle more minutes.
"I worked a lot to be able to get these opportunities, and I’m really happy here. I know I can get a lot better still, I know I can give more, but I’m working really hard every day to get to my top level," Gutierrez said.
"I like it. In fact, I’m really relaxed here with my family," he continued. "The people are really respectful. The climate - I prefer cold to the heat - I like it because sometimes it can get way too hot. Since I’ve gotten here, they’ve treated me well and I’m enjoying every minute as always and my family also likes it."
PSV returns from its winter break with a Jan. 20 trip to face FC Emmen. The club has just one defeat this season but has only a two-point lead on second-place Ajax.