Life couldn’t be sweeter for Milos Degenek at the moment.
Last Thursday, Degenek hauled his boyhood club Red Star Belgrade back into the UEFA Champions League with a goal and assist in two second half minutes against Red Bull Salzburg.
The 1991 European Cup winners are now back at the continent’s top table after a 26-year absence, thanks in part to the Caltex Socceroo defender’s stunning cameo.
“It’s hard to put into words," said Degenek.
“It’s really amazing, the atmosphere in the club at the moment is unbelievable and pretty much a dream come true.
“This means the world to the club – the whole city and pretty much the whole country stood still for 24 hours. This is hopefully a big turning point for Serbian football and my club as well.”
Red Star have been dealt the proverbial group of death upon their return to Europe’s biggest stage.
Degenek’s side will face last season’s finalists Liverpool, French superpower Paris Saint Germain and Serie A heavyweights Napoli in Group C.
But while the Serbian giants are dwarfed by their opponents’ financial firepower, Red Star - formerly a bastion of European football - are relishing their position as underdogs.
“When you look at the budget of Red Star Belgrade a year it’s 20 million. The budget of Paris is over a billion, the budget of Liverpool is over 600-700 million, the budget of Napoli is also the same," said Degenek.
“Financially we’re not up to standard in that world of football. It’s all about heart and trying to prove yourself.”
Degenek’s heroics last week might possibly be his finest hour in club football to date, but he's also targeting something special with his country.
One of the youngest defenders in Graham Arnold's first training camp, the 24-year-old could play a pivotal role in leading the Caltex Socceroos into a new era of their own.
“It gives everyone a new starting point," he said.
“We all need to work hard and prove ourselves over the next few months before the Asian Cup. But we’re all happy to be here, all happy to sit down and catch up again because it’s like a big family here.”
“We’re all excited about this and we’re all going to take this opportunity to get to know each other and learn a lot of new things in the next few days."
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