Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Miloš Ninković has revealed the reason behind his decision to retire from professional football at the end of the season – and previous comments point to his next step in Australian football.
The 39-year-old has struggled for minutes this season due to a series of minor injuries and while his mind is certainly still capable, the A-Leagues icon believe it’s time he listens to his body.
“I was thinking the last few months about it and I made the decision that I’m going to retire after this season,” Ninković revealed in a video to the Wanderers fans.
“This season is going to be my last in the A-League.
“I love football you know? I really enjoy it and still when I come to training I really enjoy it but sometimes you need to listen to your body as well.
“I know that it’s going to be really hard, especially for me, because this is my love and I love football.”
A legend with Sydney FC where he won three Premierships, three Championships and an Australia Cup, Ninković made the controversial switch from the Sky Blues to the Wanderers back in 2022.
“I have to say that I’m gonna be grateful to this club all my life because they gave me a chance, as I’ve said so many times, that I can enjoy my football and (the) most important thing is they looked after me and my family when we were nowhere.”
With Ninković in the side the Wanderers played finals football in 2023 for the first time in six years, and the Serbian maestro says he’s hoping to bow out on top come the end of the current campaign.
“I will give everything I have, still a couple of games left you know plus finals and at the moment that’s my goal.”
Ninković’s journey to A-Leagues legend began in his hometown of Belgrade, Serbia where he first played for Serbian SuperLiga side FK Čukarički.
Having to choose between basketball or football, a young Ninković opted for the latter having been influenced at the time by his footballing idols Zinedine Zidane and Alessandro Del Piero.
“I started when I was six. All my life basically I’ve played football. That’s the only thing I know…
He continued: “Then all of a sudden now you have to stop. There is no more training sessions, you know? There is no more games. Thank god I have family and probably the kids will help me with that but definitely I am going to miss so many moments.”
After a trophy-laden spell with Ukrainian powerhouse Dynamo Kyiv, Ninković then enjoyed further success with Serbian giants Crvena Zvezda and French side Evian whilst also representing his nation 28 times, including three appearances at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
In 2015, despite interest from fellow Isuzu UTE A-League side Newcastle Jets, a move to Sydney FC eventuated and the Serbian has since gone on to become one of the finest players Australian football has ever seen.
A two-time Johnny Warren Medalist, Ninković will bow out of the game in Australia having been central to some of the league’s most memorable moments – both good and not so good.
“I have the same feeling even when I was 16 or now before every game,” revealed the Serbian when addressing the Wanderers supporters.
“If I lost that a few years ago I would have probably retired.
“From when I started to play professional football, before every game and now, I have the same feeling. I’ve had a great time but now it’s time to finish.”
As for what’s next, Ninkovic revealed he would like to stay involved in the game here in Australia and revealed on the A-League’s ‘My Football Passport’ podcast back in 2022 that youth development is where he see’s his future.
“At the moment I don’t think I have ambitions to be a head coach,” he said back in 2022.
“I think I’m more with the kids, I want to teach them. To be honest with you, I think here in Australia and my country Serbia and Ukraine as well, they think you need to be strong, fast to play football.
“I remember I played against Barcelona in 2010 or 2011, with Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Dani Alves – Ibrahimovic was the only one who was big – but when they started to play the game man, that was different level.
“I played against so many great teams, Real Madrid, Inter, who at that time won the Champions League, but that Barcelona team was something special. When I played against them I thought they had 15 players on the pitch.
He continued: “That’s my goal. We need to teach kids how to play football, teach them their first touch.
“I’m thinking maybe to open some academy or something like that to teach kids how to enjoy. Of course if you’re strong and fast that’s even better but I want to give a chance to kids who are not strong or fast but can still play.”
They may now have a fractured relationship but former Sky Blues head coach Steve Corica labelled Ninković the greatest player to have played for the club and while he may not have hit those same heights in Western Sydney, Ninković’s talents are likely to be remembered and appreciated by the majority of A-Leagues fans.