Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer insists he has no regrets over his attempt to force through a move to Arsenal and admits he is so happy at Fulham that he could extend his contract to follow in Edwin van der Sar’s footsteps by playing into his forties.
The Australian’s outstanding performances in last season’s Europa League put him on the radar of Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, who had two bids for the Australian rejected last summer.
Schwarzer was desperate to play Champions League football and handed in a transfer request in order to force the Cottagers into letting him go.
The move failed though, with new manager Mark Hughes adamant that he remain at the club to play a key role in making Fulham a top-10 side.
Schwarzer reluctantly backed down and has excelled every since he signed a new contract in December.
He recently described his failure to move to the Emirates Stadium as a “huge let-down”, but he is now content at Craven Cottage and insists that everyone at the club understood why he was determined to leave.
“For me it was always about trying to fulfil an ambition,” Schwarzer said.
“As a player, a professional, and a footballer I always want to better myself. I’ve still got the hunger and desire to play at the highest level and I want to try and explore those avenues, it’s only natural.
“There was the opportunity to play Champions League football and contest for major trophies.
“I understood the club’s reasons for not wanting to let me go and they understood why I wanted to explore the avenue of going to a club like Arsenal.
“In the end I’m delighted to have stayed at Fulham and by signing a new contract, I hope I have reiterated that.
“I signed for another 18 months, so it’s another season after this one. I’m 38 now so it’s potentially my last port of call.”
The stopper will be 39 in October and he has revealed that he has an option of extending the deal by one more year, meaning he would become one of only a few selected keepers to have played in the Barclays Premier League in their forties.
He admits that seeing former Fulham stopper Van der Sar compete at the highest level past his 40th birthday has made him seriously consider about playing on at Craven Cottage until the end of the 2012-13 season.
“Someone like Van der Sar is a great example to follow and someone I admire a lot,” said Schwarzer, who will line up for Fulham against Liverpool on Monday.
“To see someone of his age still playing at that level gives me inspiration and determination to try and get somewhere near that.
“At the moment I feel great, I feel as fit as I have ever done and I’m working as hard as ever. As long as my performances continue to be good enough at this level then I’ll continue to play.
“I’ll continue as long as I can. There’s an option in my contract for another year so I’ve got my sights set on that, and in the back of my mind I’m looking at helping Australia qualify for the World Cup as well.”
David Stockdale stood in for Schwarzer when his future was up in the air and during the Asian Cup in January.
The 25-year-old performed well enough to earn his first call-up to the England squad, but Schwarzer has warned not to expect too much too soon from the Yorkshireman.
Schwarzer added: “When a player comes into a first team, the expectations aren’t there but when you get into the team a bar is set and expectations are raised.
“Once you set the benchmark there’s expectation to carry on your shoulders and only time will tell whether David will be able to cope with that.”