When news broke last week of Sydney FC’s successful re-signing of Milos Ninkovic, two thoughts sprung to mind.
Firstly, Ninkovic’s decision said a lot about the Sky Blues’ standards, culture and environment. Apparently, new club Macarthur FC, with money to spend, had Ninkovic well and truly in their crosshairs but were not able to lure the Serbian a little south and a little west.
There was considerable money on the table, with Macarthur searching for a team-leading and inspirational cog around which to build their squad. However, Ninkovic will now play out the remainder of his career in sky blue.
Who knows, there may even be a final-year cameo on top of the two for which he has signed, depending on the state of his body and his willingness to go around for one final season.
By the end of this newly signed contract, one of the best players to have ever graced the A-League will be 37 years of age. Sydney have Asian Champions League commitments this season and the same appears likely in 2021. With plenty of football to play, father time will catch up with the veteran at some stage.
That’s why managing Ninkovic’s body and playing commitments over the next three years will be near the top of manager Steve Corica’s to-do list.
The manager’s decision to re-sign was announced in a seriously underwhelming press conference, where Danny Townsend delivered the news that Sydney FC were keen to keep Corica at the helm for the foreseeable future. It was business as usual.
The team are reigning A-League champions and they’re flying in season 2019-20. Had Sydney not locked away Corica, you could only have thought that there was something being left out of the media narrative.
When Michael Zullo joined Ninkovic and Corica in putting pen to paper, the Sky Blues had taken three key steps towards continuing their sustained period of excellence. Mind you, the Sydney suits will have a tough job retaining the remainder of the squad, with cap space shrinking and other clubs ready to strike.
However, the players’ appreciation of a pleasurable culture and the chance to consistently compete for trophies will give the negotiators a lot of bargaining power.
The second message from Macarthur’s lunge at Ninkovic is that they will now move their attention elsewhere. The new franchise possess an A-League hit list.
Their starting point appeared to be an experienced and classy midfielder with undeniable leadership qualities and maturity. Such players are rare commodities in the A-League, and when found, can alter the fortunes of a club.
It was the role filled for six seasons by Isaias in Adelaide, Brisbane legend Thomas Broich in the glory days of the Roar and currently by Diego Castro in the west. Those three names are formidable and explain just why Macarthur were keen to shift Ninkovic 20 kilometres across town in what would have been a substantial coup for the new club.
Not only does such a name bring talent and presence, but the attractiveness of a move to Sydney to play with them is also a powerful motivator for other players.
The Bulls will now shift their focus, hoping to poach another man of pedigree and stature to provide a much-needed bedrock in their squad. Adelaide’s Michael Jakobsen may be a target. So could Western Sydney’s Pirmin Schwegler after signing just a one-year deal with the Wanderers.
Perhaps attention will be directed towards Western United’s Panagiotis Kone or Wellington’s Steven Taylor, two men soon to be off-contract and obvious targets if they want to continue in the A-League.
The new club will also have some new and exciting domestic talent on its radar. The managers of Liberato Cacace, Ryan Kitto, Trent Buhagiar, Lachlan Wales and Elvis Kamsoba can surely expect a call, with all yet to be locked away for season 2020-21.
Just as Western United impressively pounced on Josh Risdon, Filip Kurto, Andrew Durante, Connor Chapman, Connor Pain and Aaron Calver, Macarthur will lure considerable talent to Sydney’s southwest corridor.
Milos Ninkovic would have been an excellent place to start but that ship has now sailed. The question now becomes which players lie at numbers two, three, four and five on the Macarthur hit list?
Finding the right players to wear the A-League’s newest strip will define Macarthur’s debut season, just as shrewd recruitment and the firm hand of Mark Rudan has done so for Western United.
Sydney FC are sighing with relief, knowing they will not have to face the new club without one of their favourite sons.
Macarthur FC will have moved on and already be targeting their next big fish.