Matildas coach Ante Milicic is facing a dilemma over his immediate future, with the prospect of Australia co-hosting the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup potentially provoking a rethink over his commitment to A-League newcomers Macarthur FC.
A decision on the fate of Australia and New Zealand’s joint bid will be handed down by FIFA on June 25, with Milicic due to transition full-time into his new head coaching position with the Bulls on Sunday.
Having forged a close bond with the Matildas playing group as successor to the deposed Alen Stajcic, players have pleaded with him to stay on and take them to next year’s rescheduled Tokyo Olympics and the World Cup - possibly on home soil - beyond that.
There is no realistic prospect of a job sharing arrangement being sanctioned by either the FFA or Macarthur - leaving Milicic with a pivotal decision to make.
Matildas assistant Ivan Jolic is due to follow Milicic, 46, to Macarthur as part of a coaching package which also includes former 'Golden Generation' Socceroo Mile Sterjovski and strength and conditioning expert Anthony Crea.
As things stand, Milicic’s contract with the Bulls - who are believed to have signed 13 players to date - activated last September whilst he was simultaneously committed to taking the Matildas to Tokyo.
He is due to become exclusive to Macarthur on June 1, but had been given permission take the Matildas to the 2020 Games.
With that date now stretching to mid-2021, Milicic has been left to make a choice between club and country.
The FFA is not seeking to influence the decision-making process of the ex-Socceroos assistant but it’s no secret his ties with the Matildas are strong, having taken them to the round of 16 at France 2019 and earned the devotion of the players along the way.
The Australia-New Zealand bid is gaining traction with the world governing body, giving Milicic pause for deep reflection.
Add the uncertainly over the future shape of the A-League post-COVID-19, including the likely loss of significant revenues should the rights deal with Fox Sports disintegrate, and Milicic has reason to reassess all his options.
Though both Milicic and Macarthur declined to comment when approached by The World Game, several well-placed sources have indicated he is keen to remain involved with the Matildas, who are unlikely to return to action until early next year.
Macarthur, meanwhile, offers the day-to-day challenges of club football for both Milicic and Jolic, and a superior remuneration package for both.
The club have thus far only announced a single signing - former Socceroos winger Tommy Oar.
But they have also been linked with goalkeepers Adam Federici and Mark Birighitti, Bosnian-based defender Aleksandar Jovanovic, Brisbane Roar right-back Jake McGing and ex-Central Coast Mariners midfielder Liam Rose.
Macarthur are due to sign a $3.5 million cheque to the FFA in early July as the latest instalment of their license fee.