BERNIE Ibini today sealed his switch to Chinese Super League newcomers Shanghai SIPG and admitted the three year deal wasn't the European move everyone was expecting.
But Ibini, 20, today insisted he already felt a home at his new 65,000-capacity Shanghai Stadium home after arriving for his medical on Sunday.
“Shanghai SIPG have made me feel very welcome,” Ibini said. “I feel this is a great opportunity and a new chapter for myself.
"While it is not the move to Europe everyone was expecting, I think Australians have seen through the Asian Champions League that the Chinese Super League is of a strong standard.
“I think it is a little step up and maybe I have to reach my goals in a bit of a different way. That’s a challenge I’m up for. Shanghai SIPG understand that I have ambitions to get to Europe and will help me in the best way they can to reach that goal, just as the Mariners did.”
Ibini scored 15 goals in 74 first team appearances while at the Mariners, finishing as equal top scorer for the team in the 2011/12 Hyundai A-League campaign.
The former Young Socceroo also played in two A-League Grand Finals, winning one, and was nominated twice for the NAB Young Footballer of the Year Award during his time at the Mariners.
Mariners General Manager Peter Turnbull, said: “Our system continues to unearth and hone the best young Australian talent and Bernie Ibini is a great example of this.
"Like Mathew Ryan, Bernie progressed through our youth league system before starring in the first team.
“We hope Bernie Ibini goes on to achieve all of his ambitions and makes the most of his undoubted ability."
Ibini’s first chance to impress his new fans may come on Saturday 22 June in Shanghai, when the 2012 China League One winners play Wuhan Zall at home.