How Ryan helped Vukovic seal deal with Genk

A-League championship-winning goalkeeper Danny Vukovic has revealed the key role played by fellow gloveman Mat Ryan in his transfer from Sydney FC to Belgian club KRC Genk.

Mat Ryan Danny Vukovic

Mat Ryan (left) and Danny Vukovic Source: Instagram / @matyryan

Only weeks after helping the Sky Blues land a premiership-championship double, with a string of top class displays that earned him a Socceroos selection, Vukovic joined ambitious Genk on a two-year deal with the Pro League club having an option for two more years.

Ryan played for Genk last season before joining Premier League newcomers Brighton and Hove Albion.

Vukovic was with Ryan in Russia as part of Australia’s FIFA Confederations Cup squad when the deal was done and went straight to Belgium from Moscow to put pen to paper.

He said Ryan was crucial to getting negotiations over the line.

"Maty was a big help for me," Vukovic said in Sydney on Monday before boarding a plane back to Belgium after a quick trip home to bid farewell to loved ones.

"He had told me a while back he thought I'd do well in Belgium if I ever went there. It was his agent Mikkel Beck, who helped get the deal sorted. 

"The club also asked Maty about me and whether he thought I could come in and do well for them.

"The interest from Genk came before the last Socceroos camp began so naturally I was full of questions for Maty once we got into camp. 

"He said Genk were a very good club to play for. They have a young side but one that is considered very talented. 

"The coach is a former assistant at Manchester United and likes to play high pressure, attacking football.  

"Maty said Belgium is a beautiful country and Genk is a nice city that my family and I would enjoy living in.

"I already knew about the Genk team from keeping a close eye on Maty's career anyway."

Vukovic said he was surprised by the speed with which the transfer materialised.

"I was contacted by an agent who said Genk might be interested in signing me," he said.

"Things took off once we went away with the national team and they were in contact with Sydney not long after. They negotiated for a short time and a transfer fee was agreed upon."

At the age of 32 Vukovic admits he thought the chance of playing in Europe had passed him.

But off the back of producing career-best form for Sydney last season, he's ready to test himself at a higher level. 

"I thought overseas football wasn't going to happen for me," he said.

"Generally players go over at a young age. I thought my chance to go had been and gone. But I had my best season with Sydney and a bit of luck is always needed for things to work out.

"I'm definitely excited and nervous. It's a dream to play in Europe and test myself at the next level. 

"Football in Europe is number one and I have no doubt the pressure will be higher than what I've had to deal with in the past, but I can't wait."

Moving clubs, cities or countries is never straightforward for the Vukovic household due to the condition of their two-year old son Harley, who suffers from biliary atresia and underwent a life-saving liver transplant early this year.

But Vukovic and his wife Kristy were reassured by Genk, who are fully aware of their son’s situation.

"Of course, my first thought when there was interest was my son," Vukovic said.

"In their letter of interest, Genk acknowledged Harley’s health issues and said they had found a renowned specialist in Belgium to help with his care. 

"Harley's specialist team here in Sydney will be in contact with his doctors in Belgium constantly. He will be very well looked after."

With things all falling into line for Vukovic, he's now intent on securing regular game time at Genk and a spot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup squad.

"I have my foot in the door with the Socceroos off the back of a good season with Sydney," he said.

"I want to stay there now and if I can play well and regularly in Belgium I think that will give me a good chance to stay involved with the national team.

"Ange has said he wants his players to test themselves and I feel as though that's what I'll be doing this season."

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4 min read
Published 4 July 2017 at 12:28pm
By Philip Micallef