Milos Ninkovic never expected he’d be in Australia this long, or this in love with it. Just ask him.
It’s been a decorated stay down under for the Serbian 2010 World Cup representative; Sydney FC’s fourth A-League championship was his second since arriving under Graham Arnold in 2015.
They defied the odds, crossing the country to defeat premiers Perth Glory in front of a record grand final crowd at Optus Stadium, winning a penalty shootout 4-1 following a tense 0-0 draw.
Ninkovic was adjudged the game’s best player, thus claiming the Joe Marston Medal, his second individual honour in Australia following on from the 2017 Johnny Warren Medal.
It is almost four years since Ninkovic arrived, and his original expectations were that he’d be gone by now. But still the 34-year-old remains and he is looking as sharp as ever under Steve Corica.
He has one year remaining on his current marquee deal, but perhaps most importantly, Ninkovic’s family is loving the Sydney life away from the football pitch.
Right now is the best Ninkovic has felt since landing on Australian shores, and on Monday, he reaffirmed he could be in Sydney for a while yet, even after football.
“Not really, never,” Ninkovic remarked when asked if he ever expected this much success in Australia. “The first time I came and signed a contract with Sydney FC, I thought I will stay maybe two, three years and I will go back to Europe.
“I never thought I would think one day to stay here, even after my career, to live here.
“I said many times that I am so happy here, my family is happy here and this is more important for me.
“For the first time probably, I am happy off the pitch and on the pitch and from the first day I came here, the boys were unbelievable.
“Even the first year, my English was not so good, but I felt like I was at home. The boys were really nice from the first year and that’s probably why I didn’t want to move.
“If you remember, two years ago, when I won the Johnny Warren Medal … I had an unbelievable season and I had offers, but I didn’t want to change this life and to move my family.
“I knew it was going to be very hard after Sydney to go somewhere else and to be happy as well.”
After Sydney’s win, Corica declared Ninkovic the A-League’s best marquee.
“He is the best marquee in Australia, not (Diego) Castro,” he said.
“I told him that before the game.”