Macarthur FC coach Ante Milicic will leave no stone unturned as he sets out to build a Bulls squad capable of challenging for the title in their maiden A-League season.
The former Socceroos assistant coach and chief scout has used his national team knowledge and connections to help the club’s recruitment efforts, casting the net far and wide to entice several overseas-based Aussies to the A-League.
Milicic has an unrivalled understanding of Australia’s players plying their trade in Europe, after he was sent on a 12-month scouting mission by former Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou to unearth new talent ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
And it has proven successful so far - with half of Milicic’s Bulls squad so far made up of Australian players returning down under for a first-time crack at the A-League.
“I can’t give too much away, but what I can say is we’ve signed nine players so far with five of those being Australians currently playing in Europe and haven’t played in the A-League before,” Milicic said in a recent video on the Macarthur FC website.
“My experience with the national teams has helped me develop a decent database of players that I have worked with in the past, who fit into my way of playing the game and that we want to bring to the club.”
While the coronavirus pandemic has shaken up the A-League, both on and off the pitch, Milicic is confident he will be able to get his maiden Bulls squad together and ready ahead of next season’s proposed December start.
But he admits uncertainty around the league caused by the COVID-19 shutdown has only added to the difficulties involved with preparing a new club for their first season.
"The coronavirus pandemic has affected the whole league in many ways and every team will have to navigate that ahead of next season,” Milicic said
"The salary cap has changed, we are unsure if international players are willing and able to travel to Australia, while there are also players in the league who are very uncertain about their futures at their current club.
"That is the situation we have been dealt, and we are doing everything we can to clear these hurdles and continue making progress.”
The Bulls will have extra time to prepare for their debut campaign, with the 2020-21 A-League season delayed until December as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
It is time Milicic is determined to make the most of.
"We have a plan in place where hopefully we can start our testing and screening in September, just getting the players in slowly with the plan of starting a training schedule a few weeks after that," he said.
"Until then, the laptops still work so you can assess and watch game footage, while WhatsApp is a great form of communication to stay in touch with players no matter where they are."
"Basically we are in a holding pattern, but I’m really comfortable with the space we are in with the squad."