Australian international Mark Milligan has played his last game for Melbourne Victory after finalising a $1 million transfer to Saudi Arabian giants Al-Ahli on Sunday. Victory are understood to have reluctantly agreed to sell their star player after receiving an offer they could not reject while the player pushed to gain a lucrative move to the cashed-up club in Jeddah.
The 32-year-old was seeking a move to Al-Ahli and is understood to have agreed to terms in principle for a contract that would dwarf his current marquee salary at Victory. Club sources suggest the football department was eager to keep hold of Milligan for the rest of the season, especially with their Asian Champions League campaign beginning in a fortnight.
However, Milligan is in the final four months of his contract with Victory and is yet to be offered a new deal. With no certainty around his long-term future with the club, Milligan sought the chance to sign with Al-Ahli where he would earn a significant salary boost in the latter stages of his career, play in arguably the best league in the Middle East and in the Asian Champions League.
Victory declined to comment when contacted by Fairfax Media but confirmed they had received the increased offer from Al-Ahli. It's expected Victory will make an announcement in the coming days.
It remains to be seen what implications Milligan's pending move will have on his international career by moving to Saudi Arabia, where newly appointed Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk spent the past two years working. The Dutchman was the former coach of the Saudi national team and guided them to their first World Cup appearance in 12 years, sealing automatic qualification to Russia 2018 at the expense of the Socceroos. He will be familiar with the standard of Saudi football and conditioning at clubs, in particularly the larger teams such as Al-Ahli.
It will be the second time Victory has received more than $1million for Milligan. They sold the Socceroo, who has 67 caps, to UAE club Baniyas in 2015. Milligan spent two years in the UAE before returning to Victory as a marquee this season. He previously played in China for Shanghai Shenhua, Japan with JEF United and A-League clubs Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets. He has been a part of the last three World Cup squads and is considered a near certainty to be included for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Meanwhile, Sydney FC's interest in Portuguese winger Fabio Ferreira has been reignited with the former Adelaide United, Central Coast Mariners and Chelsea youth player training with the Sky Blues. The 28-year-old has been without a club since leaving Malaysia side PKNS at the end of last year. He has been on the radar of Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold since. Club sources told Fairfax Media there was a chance Ferreira's time with Sydney could be made permanent but they would continue to monitor his progress before making a decision before the end of the transfer window on January 31.
Ferreira would not count as a foreign player for the A-League, having gained citizenship, but would not meet Asian Football Confederations requirements to be counted as an Australian player for the Asian Champions League. AFC regulations require naturalised players to have been citizens of a country for 12 months before the first day of the Asian Champions League. It means should Sydney FC sign Ferreira, it would not ease Arnold's selection headache for the ACL, where he already must omit one of; Milos Ninkovic, Bobo, Adrian Mierzejewski and Jordy Buijs from the squad for the continental competition. Clubs are permitted to include a total of four visa-players, three from any nation and one other foreigner from an Asian nation.
It's understood Sydney FC will not look to sign an Asian foreign player outside of the salary cap specifically for the ACL, and not registered for the A-League.