A string of strong performances at the 2018 World Cup seemed destined to open a long awaited door to Europe for Mark Milligan, but the Socceroos defender remains in limbo after being released by Al-Ahli.
Despite a number of European clubs showing reported interest in the Australian last month, Milligan remains a free agent with the new season kicking off across a continent he is yet to grace.
Though frustrating, for the father of three young daughters, the time away from the game has also been something to savour.
"It’s been amazing,” Milligan told Goal at the launch of the Nike Phantom in Melbourne.
"While it’s obviously a bit of a tough situation being at home at the minute, it’s been nice being able to do things like taking your kids to school, picking them up and going to gymnastics practice.
"It’s not very often that I or footballers get to spend that kind of quality time with their kids. We’re always sort of travelling. It’s something not a lot of people really understand. It’s been nice just to do that for a little bit.”
After playing all three of the Socceroos games in Russia, Milligan shared a touching moment with his daughters on the pitch as he started to contemplate whether those matches would be his last in the green and gold.
— Almamy Kalumanzilla☆ (@AlmamyMoha) July 19, 2018
With his club future still to be decided, the former Melbourne Victory player admitted he’s not quite ready to make a call on his international future either.
"I’m honestly not sure,” he said.
"I’m letting everything with the World Cup and things like that settle in. It’s always tough afterwards. There’s a lot of things going on at the moment and I want to make sure I make the decision, whatever they are, for the right reasons.
"If I am to continue with the Socceroos I need make sure I can continue to have influence, I’m still able to help and I want to make sure my heart and everything is totally in it. Because if it’s not, you’re not only cheating yourself, but letting everyone else down.”
"I’ve spoken to Arnie a couple times,” he said.
"I’ve had a long relationship with Arnie, known him for a long time. Had him with the U23’s and the Socceroos. We’ve spoken a few times.”
Cut loose from Saudi Arabian side Al-Ahli in surprising fashion after the World Cup, Milligan admitted he was looking forward to spending another year with the club.
"I really enjoyed my time there, it was a bit disappointing the way that it finished because I wanted to stay,” he said.
"I wanted another year there which I had, but when new coaches come in it’s always difficult.
"It’s just unfortunate that the coach wanted to bring all of his own foreigners.”
Milligan departed Victory for his stint with Al-Ahli with Kevin Muscat’s side going on to take out the A-League championship.
For the one-time captain of the club, their success came as no surprise.
"Victory are always there or thereabouts,” he said.
"Starting the season and being so close to the boys where you see how hard they work and it wasn’t the easiest season from the beginning - it was a good reward for the players.”
One final return to Victory is just one of many options that remain on the table for Milligan, who showed in Russia he’s still got a few good years left in him.