But now after 13 years of European football, two World Cup appearances and one Johnny Warren Medal, the Serbian maestro is hoping to become a permanent resident of Australia.

In a career that began in Belgrade and saw him move to Kiev, Thonon and finally Sydney, it took Ninkovic 15 years to decide which city he would one day settle in post-football.

Kiev offered his career stability, a taste of the  Champions League and the sentimentality of being the birthplace of his first child, while his time at Evian in the east of France was short and underwhelming. Then came Sydney, and it was here that Ninkovic finally found a new home. 

"Sydney is the most beautiful city I’ve ever lived in," Ninkovic told FourFourTwo. "I have unbelievable memories in Kiev, I played their nine years and my daughter was born there.

"But Sydney has offered me and my wife the best lifestyle in my career. Rather than going back to Europe after football, I’m very close to retiring here instead.

"I’ve applied for Australian residency – there’s no guarantee I’ll get it but I really hope I do."

Should Ninkovic gain permanent Australian residency, the next hurdle he seeks to overcome is long term financial security and planning for his post-playing career retirement.

With Sydney’s cost of living at an all time high, Ninkovic wants to start a football academy to give back to the Australian football community and secure his financial future Down Under.

"Long term it’s going to be harder than if I go back to Europe because Sydney is an expensive city," he said. 

"For now it’s easy because you’re doing what you love, one session a day, sometimes a double session then you’re free for the rest of the day, but when I retire it’s going to be a lot harder.

"My wife will have to work as well."

Now 33 and entering his fourth season in Australia, Ninkovic spent his first two A-League campaigns under the salary cap at Sydney FC, before a breakout second season saw him elevated to marquee status.

Currently the only marquee on the books at Sydney – and arguably the first name on the team sheet – Ninkovic is excited by the arrival of Danny De Silva at the club, who became the first intra-league loanee since the new law was introduced this off season.

According to Ninkovic, the future is bright for De Silva, who shone in his first competitive match for Sydney against Rockdale in the FFA Cup.

"He’s a very good player and a very nice guy which is also important," said Ninkovic. "I think he showed his talent last season at Central Coast.

"But I think this season will be easier for him because Sydney FC have better players than Central Coast, which will make it easier for him to develop and to play well.

"We lost some great players in Adrian, Bobô and Jordy but we still have players to sign and a young player of Danny’s potential is a great start."

The A-League produced the Socceroos’ starting XI in Russia and is now a proven platform for the development of young Australian talent such as Danny De Silva.

But the reality is that this current crop of Socceroos didn’t cut it in front of goal on the world stage, and a failure to score in open play ultimately sealed Australia’s fate at the bottom of Group C.

From his playing days in Europe, Ninkovic saw the telling results of a functional youth system, and is a firm believer that more can be done by A-League clubs to unearth Australian footballing prospects.

"Arnie is great and will bring something new to the national team, but it’s probably not going to be easy for the Socceroos in the future." he admitted.

"Australia needs to concentrate more on developing young players and in truth there aren’t too many great ones in the A-League at the moment.

"Unfortunately young players aren’t always afforded enough playing minutes to develop and progress in the A-League, which might be part of the problem."

Despite what Ninkovic perceives as a youth conundrum, the Serb still fancies the A-League as a harder league to play in than that of his homeland.

The Serbian Superliga was recently the destination for Socceroo Milos Degenek, who left Ange Postecoglou’s Yokohama F. Marinos to sign with Red Star Belgrade. According to Ninkovic, the move could be the right one for Degenek.

"If Degenek wants to forge a career in Europe, Red Star could be the right club for him," he added. "They will either play in the Europa League or Champions League and it can be used as a stepping stone to a bigger club.’

"But in Serbia, there are only two teams that can win the league – Partizan and Red Star Belgrade. The A-League on the other hand is harder to play in because it’s more physical... and more teams can win the title."