Dual nationality German-based defender Milos Degenek has pledged his international future to Australia, rather than Serbia, as he eyes a potential Socceroos breakthrough.
David Lewis

22 Oct 2015 - 9:32 PM  UPDATED 22 Oct 2015 - 10:31 PM

The ex-Joeys captain, who was born in Croatia but moved to Sydney aged seven, might have been lost to Australia after going on to make eight appearances for Serbia's Under-19s.

But a recent call up for the Olyroos has convinced the 21-year old to commit unconditionally to the green and gold.

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And, judging by his form this season as a defensive midfielder for 2.Bundesiga side 1860 Munich, Serbia’s loss is Australia’s gain.

“Of course my future lies with Australia, I have spoken with (Olyroos coach) Aurelio Vidmar about things, and the feeling for me is I think I have more chance of doing something for this country, if not for me also, by staying with Australia,” Degenek said.

“In Serbia there are massive numbers of people who play the sport and many of the boys are already at big clubs with good careers. It’s maybe a bit different with Australia, even though the boys are playing at good clubs it’s maybe a different type of mentality and football.

“I have a love for Australia and its football, I lived there for 11 years and I want to be able to contribute something.

"It's nice to be back in the national set-up and I am hoping that one day in the near future that even the Socceroos coach notices me and sees that maybe I could offer an alternative for him.

"But I know that's no small thing, to play at the top level for your country."

Degenek, who missed the Olyroos' two games this month against Korea Republic through injury, has only missed one club game this season due to suspension, after he was released by Stuttgart at the end of last season.

Though 1860 is struggling at the wrong end of the table, Degenek has been a mainstay after leaving Stuttgart disillusioned and wondering where to make the next step.

Degenek was used by Vidmar in his recent Olyroos debut against Turkey as a centre back, he is just as happy as a No.6, the position he fills for his club.

By his own admission Degenek, a graduate of the AIS in Canberra, had “dropped a fair bit off the radar”.

His is a story of high hopes, followed by deep disappointment and now a new beginning.

“After the AIS, I dropped well off the radar for sure,” he said.

“When I went to join Stuttgart nearly four years back I kind of went unnoticed by the national set-up in Australia.

“There was one call after a year from Paul Okon inviting into a camp with the Young Socceroos, but at the time it was my break and I hadn’t seen my mum for two years and wanted to see my parents. My grandfather had also died and I told him I couldn’t go.

“After that, other than a few conversations with Craig Moore, I really heard nothing.

“It was then that I played for the Serbia Under-19s and was meant to join them in the European championships, but the paperwork couldn’t be completed because I hadn’t lived in Servia for five years since its independence.

"So that really went pear shaped after I’d played in all the build-up games.”

After a bright start at Stuttgart, for whom he appeared on the bench in the Bundesliga, Degenek suffered a downward swing when a change of coach and then a serious Achilles tendon injury which ruled him out for the best part of a year.

He wasn’t fully fit again until April, by which time the hierarchy at Stuttgart, which is now home to Socceroos Mitch Langerak and Robbie Kruse, had decided he didn’t feature in their plans.

“My contract was up and they said they said I had no future there,” Degenek said.

“The worst part for me was when I was injured there was no contact from any of the coaching staff or the club because I was doing my rehab in Serbia.

“My relatives are all there and I had somebody to drive me, change my clothes and help me wash. Initially I couldn't do any of those things."

The sense of abandonment cut deep.

“It was upsetting to be let go after being there three and a half years," he said.

In a change of fortune a call came to join 1860's second team for a pre-season trial in June.

"I think I must have stood out a fair bit because the coach from the second team said I was too good for them and was someone the first team should be looking at," Degenek said.

“I was surprised. I knew I had quality but to come in after not playing for so long and having had no positive energy, to hear that was fantastic."

Degenek hasn't looked back since.

"Things went from all being black to all being white and positive, it was a 180 degree turn and I couldn't be more grateful to the club for giving me this chance," he said.