Milligan eyeing move away from UAE to keep World Cup dreams alive

Australia mainstay Mark Milligan is edging towards a move away from UAE club Baniyas, but has indicated that a stint elsewhere in Asia is more likely than an imminent A-League return.

Mark Milligan

Mark Milligan in action for the Socceroos. Source: Getty Images

The influential 52-cap midfielder – who has shown his versatility by filling in at right back and as a stopper in recent World Cup qualifiers – is high on the wanted list of long time admirer, Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic.

This week’s exit of foundation player and skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley – coincidentally to the same Arabian Gulf League which Milligan currently calls home – has only heightened Popovic’s desire to bringing Milligan back to the competition where he most recently starred for Melbourne Victory as a championship winning skipper.

Milligan, 31 – who has been with Abu Dhabi-based Baniyas for 18 months – is eyeing a possible January switch to the Chinese Super League, already home to a plethora of Australians, rather than an A-League homecoming.

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“Right now I think I would be looking elsewhere in Asia,” he said.  “But it must be the right move and the right environment.

“I don’t just want to be going somewhere for the sake of it. My goal is to go to the next World Cup and I want to make sure that I am in the best possible place and position to achieve that.

“It’s a big decision I have to make and I won’t be making it lightly.”

In the final season of his Baniyas deal, Milligan declared: “Starting from next year, with the Confederations Cup coming up in Russia, I think I will be moving on.

“It’s a matter of making a decision in where will be best place to get best out of myself.

“I want it be somewhere that’s going to be the most beneficial, and give me a best chance of being a part of that 2018 World Cup squad.”

Victory sought to re-sign Milligan back in January without success, but come the next window he may well be ready to embrace the next challenge of a career which has already taken him to China and Japan, and almost to Crystal Palace before Victory scuppered the move.

“There was interest a few months back (from Victory) and there’s no doubt it would be easier to move in January and I am definitely open to that,” he added. “But I am not sure where or what that would be.

“I am just sitting tight at the moment and working as hard as I can for Baniyas and see what comes up.

“I am enjoying my time here, it’s been great from a family point of view, and the people are so accommodating. It’s been pretty much what I expected.”


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3 min read
Published 15 October 2016 at 11:32am
By Dave Lewis