Hume City forward Theo Markelis concedes football was not his top priority during his time with Melbourne Victory but he hopes a strong Westfield FFA Cup run can help him back into the Hyundai A-League.
When then-Victory coach Ange Postecoglou lured Markelis back to Australia before the 2012-13 A-League season, there was plenty of excitement surrounding the former Valencia youth product and what he might achieve on the local stage.
It did not work out though, with Markelis managing just five appearances before being released at the end of the campaign, with the impressive form of Archie Thompson and Marco Rojas and a knee injury keeping him out of the Big V's line-up.
After he watched his career stagnate with the Big V, the ex-Valencia prodigy reckons the FFA Cup can catapult him back into the A-League.
"When I was at Victory, I think I took advantage of it a little bit," he told Goal Australia.
"But again, I was still young and I learned from my mistakes and that's [the A-League] where I want to be now."
Having left for Europe as a 15-year-old to join Valencia, where he played alongside Isco and scored regularly for their youth teams, Markelis' season with Victory was his first time living in his home town of Melbourne for six years.
"I think coming back home from overseas, being with family and stuff, it's hard to explain [but] I didn't take it as professionally as I should have taken it," he said.
Fast forward two years and Markelis has also endured frustrating stints at Spanish clubs Racing Santander and Hercules, plus Veria of Greece, but reckons he has found the right club to jump-start his career in Hume.
The 23-year-old, who plays as a left winger in Lou Acevski's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, scored both goals last month as Hume defeated Kingston City 2-0 to reach the FFA Cup round of 32.
"It's been a long time since I played this many games and each game I'm playing I feel I'm getting better and better, and I can see that via the amount of goals I'm scoring, the way I've been playing, and I think this is the best way for me to discover myself as a player again," Markelis said.
Markelis has scored six goals in the NPL Victoria this season, including in Hume's 3-1 loss at Green Gully on Saturday, but he knows Wednesday's FFA Cup tie at home against Brisbane Strikers is a special opportunity for him and all other players with ambitions to play at a higher level.
"I want to do the best I can for the club… but I also want to, individually, try to put myself back out there to try and get back into the A-League," he said.
The one-time prodigy added: "I've played A-League before and I think that's where I can be again."