Caltex Socceroos midfielder Mark Milligan has departed Melbourne Victory in a move that will now see him ply his trade at Saudi Arabian Giant Al-Ahli.
After previously playing in China and the UAE, an offer of around $1 million has convinced Kevin Muscat to sell his marquee man.
“We obviously did everything we could to keep him, but Mark was adamant this was an opportunity he wanted to take up,” Muscat said in a statement.
“‘It’s a very disappointing outcome, but these things happen in football, so we must move forward.”
Financially, it was a deal that Victory couldn’t realistically refuse, after knocking back two offers of around $300k to $370k, an offer of a reported $1 million was incredibly enticing considering he was able to walk for free in six months time.
With a sizeable wage coming Milligan’s way, money played a massive role in his decision.
With the World Cup just around the corner, Milligan will be looking to recapture his best form, which wasn’t that evident in the first half of this season.
The constant switching between centre back and central midfield due to injuries this season has hampered the 32-year-old’s form.
With Milligan being a regular in Ange Postecoglou’s national side set up, by leaving Melbourne victory, he has now relinquished the guaranteed opportunity of 90 minutes every week, which could be a risk considering the appointment of Bert van Marwijk as the new national team manager.
Melbourne Victory legend Archie Thompson believes it shouldn’t be a problem, but it does pose a big risk.
“I was around at a time when Hiddink came in for Farina and I just felt like it revitalised the team because there were a few players that thought they were already going to the World Cup,” Thompson said on Just for Kicks.
“And I think with the appointment of this guy, all of those 60-odd players who were used in this qualifier have got a real chance of going to the World Cup.”
However, with van Marwijk having experience in the footballing ranks in Saudi Arabia, the new manager will be able to gauge the current state of the country’s league and what role and place Milligan has within it.
With 67 Socceroos caps to his name, Milligan oozes quality and leadership, which should see him regain his place in the squad for the World Cup.
In terms of Melbourne Victory’s replacement for their marquee man, the recent signing of fringe Socceroo and former Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanders midfielder Terry Antonis, could provide Victory with a very versatile replacement.
Antonis has played in multiple roles for club and country, playing as a box-to-box, holding midfielder and even as an attacking midfielder.