Socceroo pays tribute to UAE club's persistence

Australia international Mark Milligan says he's gratified by the patience Bani Yas showed in their attempts to lure him to the United Arab Emirates club.

The 30-year-old joined the UAE's Arabian Gulf League club in June, a month after lifting the Hyundai A-League title with Melbourne Victory.

The former Sydney FC player, who began his career as a defender but is now more accustomed to a role in midfield, had been the subject of interest from the Abu Dhabi-based outfit throughout much of his time at Victory.

Crystal Palace also sought to capture the services of the hard-working Socceroo in 2013, but it was the team coached by Spaniard Luis Garcia who finally succeeded in prising the Asian Cup winner away from Australia.

"It was actually about three years ago that Bani Yas first came to me about playing here in Abu Dhabi," Milligan said.

"Unfortunately back then it didn't quite align, it was a difficult time with contracts in Australia, but we have stayed in touch for a few years.

"It's been a long time coming but the timing was now right in my career.

"I wanted a new challenge and everything just fits for me with this move. I feel very privileged the club showed persistence in waiting for so long.

"It was quite a long process but both me and my agent were focused on getting it done and it was important that it was at Bani Yas."

Garcia, who has previously coached Getafe and Levante in La Liga, hailed the newcomer, who is a former Shanghai Shenua and JEF United Chiba player, as one of the region's top talents.

"I'm very happy that Mark is with us. He has been one of the best players in Asia for three or four years," the coach said.

"He is an experienced player. He will be a very important player for us and I hope for the best from him for the season because I think he's very important for the team, for the club. I know he'll do a good job."

According to Milligan, several compatriots who have plied their trade in the Middle East offered a ringing endorsement of football and life in the Gulf.

"Originally the first player I spoke to was Nicky Carle who actually played here," he said.

"He couldn't speak highly enough of the club, the people and the place.

"I also spoke a lot to Mark Bresciano who was in Dubai for a year and Brett Holman who's played over here quite a bit, so I was quite fortunate to have that kind of information. It made my decision very easy in the end."

Bani Yas finished a disappointing eighth of 14 teams in the 2014-15 League and are determined to improve when they kick off the new season away to Al Shaab on Friday.

Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou named Milligan in his squad for the upcoming FIFA 2018 Russia World Cup Qualifiers™ against Bangladesh and Tajikistan.

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"He's pretty happy with the way things are going over [in UAE]," Postecoglou told reporters this week. 

"Every player has the opportunity to make decisions that are good for their careers. I've known Mark for a long time, he's very professional, so as long as he's fit and playing regularly, he'll get selected. 

"I certainly don't see any negatives in the move provided he keeps up his standards which I know Mark's very keen to."