Germany-based Socceroo Milos Degenek knows there’s an opportunity for him to become Australia's first choice right-back but isn’t fazed by where coach Ange Postecoglou fields him.
The 22-year-old 1860 Munich defender/midfielder earned his first Socceroos call-up in May for the England and Greece friendlies, playing all three games.
Degenek was one of only two recognised right-sided full-backs named in Postecoglou’s squad for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Iraq and UAE.
Croatia-born Degenek’s competition for the right-back spot in the latest squad is Ryan McGowan, with A-League full-backs Josh Risdon, Jason Geria, Tarek Elrich and Ivan Franjic not considered given they are in off-season.
Franjic was Postecoglou's first choice right-back at last year's Asian Cup but a failed stint with Torpedo Moscow and a recent heart condition has seen him fall out of the frame, with several options trialled in the past 12 months.
The situation has opened the door at right-back for Degenek who is eager to re-pay Postecoglou’s faith.
“It’s not where I play my club football and I feel more comfortable playing in the centre but I don’t feel uncomfortable at right full-back,” Degenek told FourFourTwo.
“I’ve played it at club level a few times and in the national team a few times as well.”
He added: “I look at it as a chance to break into the team, but I’m up for wherever the boss puts me.
“If he puts me at centre-back I’m there, if he puts me at holding midfielder I’m there, if he puts me at right back I’ll do my best to help the team.
“If I can set myself up as a right full-back in the national team, I’ll be happy and proud.
“If it’s as a centre-back I’ll do my best, keep moving forward and learning from the other places.”
Degenek previously had interest from the Serbian national team but has forged a positive relationship with Postecoglou.
“I leave my heart and soul out on the pitch for the team and the coach,” Degenek said.
“If they give me trust, I give them twice as much. Ange has given me the trust over a longer period now and the first camp and this camp now, I feel like I need to re-pay him by doing my best.
“I have a good feeling that he’s given me the trust, it makes me a lot more calm. I don’t feel that much pressure like sometimes at club level.”
Senior Socceroos players such as Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak, along with fellow Germany-based Aussies, are regularly in touch with him, helping him settle into the national team environment.
“When I was first there I held myself back a bit,” he said. “I didn’t want to express myself.
“When you come into a new environment you have to adapt, but it was quite easy because everyone is quite nice. It made everything a lot easier. Now I feel like I’m going home.”
Degenek is passionate about his country, rating his debut against England as “the most emotional game of my life”. He said even this month’s call-up for the World Cup qualifiers made him emotional.
Meanwhile at club level despite a major turnover of players at 1860, he’s retained his place with a side who just avoided relegation from the 2.Bundesliga last term.
The Bavarian club’s ambitions for 2016-17 are a top-half finish, but Degenek said they may reset that at the halfway point.
“A lot has changed, nine players have left, seven or eight players have been brought in,” he said.
“Everything in the club has changed, a lot more money has been thrown into the club, they’ve brought in some players with big names.
“I think last year we just avoided relegation but this year the main objective is to finish the first half of the season in the top six or seven spots.
“If that’s the case, we’ll go all or nothing to fight for promotion in the top three places.
“I think we’ve got the quality to do it and if we bond a bit more, we could develop as one of the better teams in the league.”