World Cup drove Milligan's Victory exit

Mark Milligan in action for Melbourne Victory Source: Getty Images

Mark Milligan admits the appointment of a new national team coach added an element of unknown but his move to Saudi Arabian giants Al Ahli has him well-placed to remain on the FIFA World Cup radar.

The midfielder left Melbourne Victory in the final days of January's transfer window, with the cashed-up Jeddah club eventually getting their man after two previous bids were shut down by the A-League side's board.

Milligan has slotted straight in, helping Al Ahli to a 1-0 AFC Champions League defeat of Iran's Tractor Sazi on Tuesday morning AEDT.

Al Ahli sit second in the Saudi Pro League and Milligan anticipates playing a key role as they push for multiple honours this season.

He says heavy involvement was a key motivator for the move ahead of Russia 2018 as the Socceroos regular aims to impress recently-appointed boss Bert van Marwijk.

"They were very keen on acquiring my services," he told The Asian Game.

"When you've got a club that's pushing that hard you know you're going to play a role in what they're trying to achieve, and they're still in the Cup and in the Champions League."

Van Marwijk qualified Saudi Arabia for the World Cup but baulked at the terms and conditions when it came time to extend his contract last September.

Instead the Dutchman, who led his home nation to the World Cup final in 2010, will take Australia to Russia after Ange Postecoglou's resignation.

"We spent four good years under Ange," Milligan said.

"With a new coach it's always a little bit nerve wracking, I guess, to see what he does and what he wants in terms of which players and I want to make sure I'm a part of that.

"Hopefully in the next couple of months I can continue playing well here with my Saudi team and that translates to the national team."

While van Marwijk's departure from the Saudi Arabia set-up was sudden, Milligan said his club teammates and general public still held him in high regard.

"They speak unbelievably about him in terms of what he's achieved in the past with all his teams and at World Cup level," the 32-year-old said.

Australia will play friendlies against Norway and Colombia next month as they prepare for June's showpiece tournament.

Source: AAP