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Buchanan living his dream, but far from satisfied


FRISCO, Texas – Tajon Buchanan seemingly has everything he’s ever wanted in soccer.

When healthy, the 25-year-old is a must-start regular for the Canadian men’s national team, and in January, he completed a move to Inter Milan, one of European soccer’s most historic and most successful clubs.

The Brampton, Ont.-native is living a dream, but that doesn’t mean he’s satisfied. Since his move to Italy, Buchanan has played just 33 minutes over three substitute appearances in Serie A.

The talented midfielder’s relentless drive helped propel him through an incredible five-year run where he went from Major League Soccer starter to MLS all-star and then helped Club Brugge win a Belgian league championship and qualify for the Champions League. To now be stuck on the bench in Italy’s top division means Buchanan’s limitless ambitions have had to evolve into determined patience.

“The whole situation has been a challenge,” Buchanan told TSN this week as he and the Canadian team prepares for a Copa América playoff against Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday.

“The whole patience thing – this is the first time in my career since my rookie year in MLS that I haven’t played every game or been a lock in the starting 11. For me [at Inter Milan], you’re playing with some of the best players in the world, and you have to show yourself and prove that you’re the guy to play.”

Buchanan is quiet. On first glance, he might appear to be shy and detached. But over time, his personality and style of play reveal an extremely focused and fiercely determined individual.

Five years ago, he was unknown to many in the wider soccer community. He’s risen so far so fast because his dreams and objectives are all that matter to him.

Life in Italy presents a new set of challenges – a different language and culture Buchanan will learn in time.

What won’t be a challenge is asserting himself in a locker room that includes World Cup winners Lautaro Martínez and Benjamin Pavard, and heavy competition at his position from Dutch international Denzel Dumfries and Italian international Matteo Darmian.

“For me as a player, it’s not intimidating – its more motivation,” Buchanan said of walking into Inter Milan's locker room. “You’re playing with guys that you used to watch all the time on TV as a kid. Everyone is in that locker room because they’re top players. That’s motivation. You want to show everyone who you are, and that you’re here to help the team.”

This weekend, Buchanan is focused on helping Canada qualify for Copa América.

He calls Canada’s loss to Jamaica last November an “eye-opener.” That loss apparently convinced interim Canadian head coach Mauro Biello to move on from a handful of the country's veteran players.

That has thrust a player like Buchanan, with his 35 international appearances, into a leadership role.

It’s another new challenge for a player who likely won’t give a rousing speech or throw his arm around disappointed teammate. But Buchanan – always quiet and always focused – won’t stop working hard on his craft. He knows he can lead that way.

“I do lead in different ways,” Buchanan said. “Every time I put on the [Canadian] jersey it’s a dream come true for me. [Having others watch Buchanan’s success] is giving the younger generation something to look forward to. Playing at a top club is giving them the belief that they can do it also."