Ahead of the AFC Asian Cup in January, we're delivering weekly scouting reports on our Caltex Socceroos abroad.
This week the spotlight is on Milos Degenek, a man living out his boyhood dream for Red Star Belgrade.
Name: Milos Degenek
Position: Centre back
Caltex Socceroos record: 18 appearances
Club: Red Star Belgrade
Division: Serbian SuperLiga
Degenek has slotted into the Red Star rearguard seamlessly following his signing from Japanese outfit Yokohama F Marinos in July.
His transition has been so assured that Degenek has become a permanent fixture in defence for the Serbian heavyweights.
He’s made more appearances (16) than any other Red Star player this campaign and appears to be at the top of the Belgrade defensive pecking order.
That’s some achievement for the 24-year-old, considering manager Vladan Milojević bolstered his defensive stocks with two other central defensive bodies (Rashid Sumaila and Vujadin Savic) in the off-season.
Red Star have been in formidable nick with Degenek marshalling the defensive unit.
They’ve conceded a meagre three goals with the Knin-born defender on the pitch during the Serbian SuperLiga season, in which the side has kept five clean sheets from a total nine matches.
A perfect start to the league campaign came undone in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Partizan in the Eternal derby, but Milojević’s side could arguably not have started the defence of their title in more emphatic fashion.
Their domestic form has only been trumped by the elation of their UEFA Champions League return, in which Degenek played a starring role with two assists in the second leg of their clash against Red Bull Salzburg.
Red Star were drawn in the proverbial group of death following their return to the European stage after 26 years, but a 0-0 stalemate with Napoli in their group opener should ensure they approach the upcoming fixtures against Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain with confidence.
Degenek etched his name into Red Star folklore in August’s heroic comeback against Red Bull Salzburg.
After a 0-0 stalemate in the first leg, Red Star were destined for the exit at 2-0 down with under half an hour remaining of the return tie in Austria.
Incredibly, Degenek provided two assists for forward Mohamed Ben Nabouhane the visitors to claw their way back to the European top table after a long and painful absence.
First, Degenek won possession on the edge of Salzburg’s box before his cross found Ben Nabouhane at the far post to score.
Then just a minute later, Degenek got on the end of a free-kick and looped a header towards goal, with Ben Nabouhane forcing it over the line from close range.
Red Star held on for the last 25 minutes to book their spot in the competition for the first time since the 1991/92 season, with the away fans invading the pitch at full time to mob Degenek and his teammates.
Caltex Socceroos prospects
Degenek’s sensational return to Belgrade could be just what he needs to nail down a position in the heart of Australia’s defence.
A proven leader at just 24-years-old, the Bonnyrigg White Eagles youth product has all the tools to lead Australia to a successful AFC Asian Cup title defence in 2019 – and for many years to come.
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Twelve months ago, Caltex Socceroos defender Milos Degenek was playing in Japan — now, he’s tearing up Serbia’s SuperLiga, having been named in the league’s best eleven for the first half of the season. It’s a credit to Degenek, 24, who signed with Red Star Belgrade in July