What's going on with Behich and Sainsbury at PSV?

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Two of Australia's best players have found game time hard to come by in the Netherlands

When PSV coach Mark van Bommel came calling for Socceroos duo Aziz Behich and Trent Sainsbury in pre-season, it seemed like an ideal reunion for all three. 

The Dutchman had gotten to know the defenders during the 2018 World Cup in Russia as Australia's assistant coach with both Behich and Sainsbury impressing despite the green and gold's lacklustre campaign. 

After strong previous seasons in Europe, the two Socceroos were due for a new challenge and a move to the Eredivisie seemed an ideal next step when van Bommel picked up the phone.

"After the World Cup knew I had to look for a new club, Mark was obviously there with the national team of Australia and once I heard he was going to be the head coach of the PSV team it was one I wanted to be a part of as well," Sainsbury said once his move to PSV was completed in August 2018.

"I think one of the reasons I’m happy to join here is because I know the coach already, I know the style he brings to training and the way that he handles his players."

Unfortunately for both Sainsbury and Behich, they simply haven't featured in van Bommel's first-team plans since making their moves to PSV.

Sainsbury, who's struggled for regular game time since 2016, has played just 521 minutes this season across all competitions making eight appearances.

Behich meanwhile, on the back of four strong seasons in Turkey, has featured even less - making just two starts and playing a total of 280 minutes.

Despite being Australia's first-choice left-back, Behich's move to PSV was never destined to end with regular football considering former Manchester City man Angelino​ was always going to be van Bommel's first preference.

Aziz Behich PSV

When given a chance to impress for PSV, mainly in the KNVB Cup, the 28-year-old's performances simply haven't been good enough with both club and player seemingly content to part ways at the end of the season.  

“Mark van Bommel was pretty insistent on Aziz signing for PSV,” Behich's agent Mikkel Beck told The World Game in February.

“We anticipated he would be playing a lot and of course PSV were also in the Champions League, which would’ve been something new for Aziz. He wanted to play football not to sit on the bench.

“We’re not happy with the situation and there was interest in January, but it was not possible to move because of the rules. 

“We are studying the situation now for the upcoming transfer markets and we will have to sit down with the club in the summer and try to find the best possible solution for all parties."

So with Behich's time in the Netherlands now seemingly a write off, does Sainsbury have a future with PSV?

Much like Behich, the Socceroos skipper was brought in as a back-up option rather than regular starter with Daniel Schwaab, Nick Viergever and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin all preferred at centre-back.

Trent Sainsbury PSV

With Isimat-Mirin leaving PSV in January, Sainsbury has become the next player in line to start should Schwaab or Viergever get injured.

Schwaab is in fact tipped to return to Germany next season meaning Sainsbury could be rewarded with more game time next season should PSV opt against dipping back into the transfer market.

Though seeing limited action, the Aussie did get to grace the Champions League for PSV this season - an achievement that has no doubt made the lack of minutes easier to swallow.

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The fact PSV are locked in a tight race for the Eredivisie title with Ajax has also meant Behich and Sainsbury simply can't been handed minutes.

Locked on 71 points with Ajax but with an inferior goal difference, van Bommel simply can't afford to destabilise his back-line, making his two Aussies spanners that won't be thrown into the works anytime soon if it can be avoided.

The Eredivisie has been seen as an ideal stepping stone for Australians into Europe in the past, but sadly Behich and Sainsbury's moves to PSV have so far failed to provide any sense of footing for two of Australia's best players. 

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