Young Sydney FC striker Luke Ivanovic is being mentored by Milos Ninkovic and has revealed how the Serbian star is helping to fine-tune his game.
Veteran Ninkovic is one of the best players in the A-League and has helped lead the Sky Blues to three premierships and three championships since he joined the club four years ago. The Belgrade-born marquee man has been named in the PFA team of the season for the past four seasons in a row and won both the Johnny Warren and the Joe Marston medals.
Ivanovic signed with Sydney FC in 2018 and has made 29 first-team appearances for the club. He shares Serbian heritage with Ninkovic and the attacking midfielder has taken the talented 20-year-old under his wing.
“We spoke a bit when I first came in and then we started to get along really well,” Ivanovic told The World Game.
“Throughout the year and a half, two years I’ve been at Sydney he’s really helped me on and off the field. Just being a role model as a professional football and learning things from him on and off the field.
“What he’s done for me has really helped me. It’s really pleasing to have someone like him in the team because he’s a really good example of how a football career should be happening.
“He’s one player I’ve really learnt off a lot. We’re always staying behind training and doing one on ones. Always advice on and off the field, what I need to do better.
“He’ll always tell me what I need to do better and obviously I’m going to take on that board. Him being Serbian and me being Serbian helps a lot as well, we have a lot in common.
“It’s really good that I can get along with him at training and in general.”
Ivanovic’s parents both hail from Serbia, like Ninkovic, and the forward wants to learn to speak the language. He was inspired to play football as a child to follow in the footsteps of his brother.
“My parents came to Australia when they very young,” he said.
“My parents didn’t really push me into football, what pushed me was my older brother was always playing and I wanted to follow him. I just wanted to be with him and kick a ball around. That’s what really started getting me into football.
“I’m trying to learn the Serbian language. My parents spoke English to me when I was younger. That’s one goal I want to try and do.”
Ivanvoic grew up in Picton, in south-western Sydney, and came through the Football NSW Institute and APIA Leichhardt. The winger debuted for Bonnyrigg White Eagles at the tender age of 16 and quickly caught the eye of Sydney FC.
“I think I was the record youngest debut at the club,” he said.
“It was really good. The coach Brian Brown gave me that opportunity and I can’t thank him enough for that. That’s the best way you’re going to learn and experience, playing against men, that’s the only way you’re going to improve.”
Ivanovic bagged one goal in 14 matches this season, with his appearances limited by a quadriceps tendon injury. But the attacker is after more game-time next season as the Sky Blues look to defend their title and also make an assault on Asia.
“Individually the season was challenging at some points because I came through an injury for a few months that kept reoccurring,” he admitted.
“That took some mental toughness to get over. What I’ve learnt this year is taking care of your body and make sure its 100% ready for games coming up. Quad tendon injuries take much longer to recover than other muscles.
“[But] at my current age I need to be playing regularly and starting games. That’s the goal for next year as I need to start playing, getting more experience.
“It’s all about that next year. Every day I just have to fight for my position and keep learning. I know my chance will come.
“The Asian Champions League was one of our main objectives coming into this year. We felt like we’ve got one of the strongest squads at Sydney FC.
“When it resumes hopefully we’ll try and push pretty far into the tournament.”