Degenek’s star continues to rise in Serbia
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It is rare for a modern day footballer to walk to training. Often times they are driven or drive themselves, preventing fans from getting to the ground quickly. Unless their name is Milos Degenek.
Australian center-back Degenek heads to training at European glamor club Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade’s red star, stopping along the way to talk to fans, sign autographs and take photos.
He will visit his favorite restaurant and cafe and there will still be people coming to him. He is grateful for the support he has received and the fame that comes with being a footballer. He’s incredibly down to earth and respectful of the ordinary Joe on the street. That’s why he loved so much in the Serbian capital.
The Red Star achieved a historic brace as they beat fierce rivals FK Partizan in the Serbian Cup final on penalties 4-3 in a game that saw the usual violence on and off the pitch in the derby most fierce of Europe.
Winning the cup and winning the league against Partizan capped an incredible week for Degenek.
It was a historic season, with 35 absurd wins, three draws and no defeats, including 114 goals scored and only 20 conceded throughout the campaign.
Degenek ranks near the top for matches played by an Aussie player anywhere in the world this season, with 46 overall
Harry Souttar of Stoke City is the only Aussie player to have accumulated more club football minutes this season, 3,867 compared to Degenek’s 3,704.
Winning two European trophies makes it the most successful season in over a decade by any Australian player. This is Degenek’s fifth career trophy, but it’s Red Star’s first domestic double in more than a decade.
While Degenek has enjoyed success at home, the promising Red Star side have struggled in European competitions.
They were unexpectedly knocked out of the Champions League on penalties in the third qualifying phase before having to win a play-off round to reach the Europa League.
They redeemed themselves with a fairytale race in the round of 16 before being eliminated altogether by AC Milan.
Coached by Inter Milan and Serbian legend Dejan Stankovic, this Crvena Zvezda team combines experience and youth.
Degenek’s other mainstays in defense, Milan Gajic, Radovan Pankov, Nemanja Milunovic and Milan Rodic, in addition to their strength, have all contributed to several goals this season. But the real find in the back row could be 20-year-old Strahinja Erakovic, who has a bevy of clubs sniffing around him.
The midfielder was supported by 20-goal maestro Mirko Ivanic and 18 return goals Aleksandar Katai. While young midfielders Njegos Petrovic, Veljko Nikolic, Zeljko Gavric and Manchester City-linked 18-year-old Andrija Radulovic had scouts closely monitoring their progress.
Perhaps the only disappointing thing about such a historic season is that the Red Stars forwards haven’t scored as many goals as they expected. Comoros international El Fardou Ben was the best striker with 18 goals followed by Radovan Pankov on 15. Bologna lender Diego Falcinelli is not far behind with 13 goals. Young Montenegrin striker Nikola Krstovic is currently a name on many recruiting lists.
The problem for Crvena Zvezda is the lack of money. Every season they are forced to sell their best players to make ends meet. Even pillars like Degenek have already been sold to the highest bidder. This season alone, they’ve dropped over 20 players through sales or loans and barely replaced half of them with new chants.
This could be a problem for many clubs, but Crvena Zvezda has always relied on one of the best youth systems in Europe to bring several youngsters into the first team every year.
This offseason will see more players leave once again. Degenek has already had two multi-million dollar transfer fees agreed to by the Middle East club, although he declined both.
Whether he stays or leaves, Milos Degenek’s season has been incredible, and his stats alone should see him as a permanent defensive player for the Socceroos.