Ninkovic reveals the REAL reason behind infamous derby bust-up with Corica: ‘Nobody knows that’

Ahead of what is set to be his final ‘home’ Sydney Derby, A-Leagues icon and Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Milos Ninkovic opens up on his decision to swap sides, his Sydney FC legacy and discusses the now infamous dressing room bust-up between himself and former Sky Blues boss Steve Corica.

World football has had it’s fair share of controversial transfers.

Think Luis Figo swapping Barcelona for Real Madrid in 2000, Sol Campbell leaving Tottenham Hotspur on a free transfer to join bitter rivals Arsenal or even Manchester City rolling out the ‘Welcome to Manchester’ sign as they signed Carlos Tevez from Manchester United.

But when it comes to the Isuzu UTE A-League, no transfer is likely to be as controversial as that of Milos Ninkovic, who in 2022 traded legend status at Sydney FC for one final hurrah with Western Sydney Wanderers.

Now that the dust has somewhat settled and the Serbian has become accustomed to life in Red and Black, Ninkovic has opened up on his decision to swap Sydney’s eastern suburbs for it’s west ahead of what is likely to be his last home Derby clash before he retires at season’s end.


“I feel the same like I left when I left,” said a relaxed Ninkovic as he sat down with at the Wanderers training complex. “I don’t know how I’m going to call it. Angry or sad, probably everything, every word.

“But now I’m here, I really respect this club. I don’t know what to say about this club. This coach, Eddy (Bosnar), the Chairman and (the) fans as well because I really didn’t know how they were going to accept me.

“I played a huge role in Sydney’s success in the last few years you know. I think this club helped me a lot and helped my family as well because they gave me a chance last year to play and obviously they looked after me and my family when we were nowhere.

“But as I said before, that’s football and that’s life – there is probably no love in this job. I learned and I learned in a bad way but it is what it is…”

Earlier this year the 39-year-old midfielder announced his decision to call time on his storied career at the end of the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League season.

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After spells with big European teams such as Ukrainian giants Dynamo Kyiv – where he won nine trophies – and a championship-winning season with boyhood club Crvena Zvezda, Ninkovic found himself adrift.

However in July 2015 Sydney FC threw him a lifeline and it proved to be a masterstroke. With Ninkovic in the side the Sky Blues went on to win three premierships, three championships and an Australia Cup, while the Serbian midfielder also won two Johnny Warren Medals.

A bona fide club legend. Until he wasn’t.

Ninkovic’s move to the Wanderers at the beginning of the 2022-23 Isuzu UTE A-League season seemingly tarnished the legacy he’d worked so hard to achieve but it’s not something he loses sleep over.

“I had the choice to pick between legacy or my family and my family’s future,” said Ninkovic when asked how he felt upon seeing The Cove’s giant tifo about him before his first Sydney Derby in Wanderers’ colours.


“I think everyone would chose their family first. To be honest with you, I don’t care how the other people look at it. I won so many trophies there but that’s the past. I don’t want to look at back then.

He continued: “You know people will probably look at different views they have but only people who know the real truth, they understand me. I understand a lot of people they still don’t know what really happened, it is what it is.

“No one can take away the trophies that I won there.”

A 1-0 victory in that first derby of the season courtesy of a goal crafted by none other than Ninkovic himself saw the Wanderers draw first blood. However a 1-0 win for Sydney FC at the home of their rivals in the next meeting saw the Sky Blues regain the bragging rights.

The third meeting though would see said rights return to the West as Marko Rudan’s side humiliated their rivals on home soil, securing a 4-0 victory at Allianz Stadium – a result which no doubt fanned the flames ahead of what would be one of the most infamous Sydney Derbies of all time – a winner takes all, finals showdown at CommBank Stadium.

Ninkovic would end up being on the losing side.

Despite the Wanderers taking the lead, Sydney FC came from a goal down to defeat their arch rivals 2-1 and progress through to the semi-finals but before the night was over, Ninkovic and his former coach Steve Corica were involved in a heated incident which resulted in the Serbian being forcibly removed from the Sydney dressing room.

“When I was young the coaches and my parents always teach me to be fair when you win and fair when you lose,” said Ninkovic as he opened up for the first time on what prompted the confrontation. “Some games you’re going to win, some games you’re going to lose.”

“I don’t think it was a bad light for me, I think it was more of a bad light for the head coach of Sydney. I wasn’t on the pitch and obviously when the game finished I went straight away to the dressing room.


“To be honest with you, I didn’t go to the dressing room just to congratulate the players. That was one thing. The other thing was to ask the head coach (Corica), because he was talking very bad things during the game…

He continued: “Which I know him for many years and he never did that with any other player and he said some bad things to me when I was on the pitch. Obviously the first reason was to congratulate the players because I didn’t have a chance after the game and then to speak with him face to face.

“Nobody knows that, probably everyone thinks I only had one reason – to congratulate the players. The second one was to see him to see if he’s a man to tell me to my face what he said to me on the pitch.”

The confrontation would prove to be the last A-Leagues interaction between the pair with Corica relieved of his duties earlier this campaign, while Ninkovic’s pending retirement means they also won’t cross paths next season when the two-time Championship winning coach takes charge of the new Auckland franchise’s Isuzu UTE A-League side.

Turning attention back to this weekend’s clash at CommBank Stadium, Ninkovic admits the game holds significant weight for the remainder of the season given respective league positions and has called on the fans to make themselves heard.

“It means a lot, especially now because we’re close (on the ladder) it’s a very important game for us. Derbies mean a lot to me.

“My first derby last season, when we played at Allianz, I think it was pretty much half and half (fan support) and I didn’t really feel like I’m playing away.

Speaking of the fans, he added: “They can help us. I understand maybe they’ve been a little bit frustrated in terms of how we play last few games; we win, lose, win, lose.

“But they also need to understand that we need them. We have a lot of young players and they need support and I hope, and I’m pretty sure, they’re going to come on Saturday and be our 12th player.

“I think we are ready, especially after three points against Adelaide. I think finally we are ready to have that run again, that winning run, and make sure we’re going to be ready for the finals.”

Whether or not Ninkovic starts at CommBank Stadium remains to be seen but with just six matches under his belt this season it’s likely the 39-year-old will be used in more of an impact role off the bench.


But while he may not have been able to have the desired impact on the field, his presence is certainly being felt off it. Currently studying for his coaching badges, Ninkovic is also now mentoring some of the younger players within the Wanderers set-up – most notably playmaker Alex Badolato – whom the Serbian has taken under his wing and the pair are often seen together at the Wanderers training complex talking all things football.

“Definitely,” said Ninkovic when asked if his next step in football would see him move into youth coaching.

“Not just here in this club, I think in all of Australia they have very good young players.

“There is a lot of potential you know but you just need to teach them from the beginning because when they come to the first team, if they missed so many things when they were young it’s really hard to teach them.

“Obviously you can but you need to spend a lot of time. A lot of hours, days to teach them basic things that they should learn when they were young.

“I think that’s how I view my role in the future but obviously I’m going to speak to the club as well to develop these young kids, to teach them.”