David Milinkovic plans to approach parent club Genoa in January to ask about an extended stay at Hearts.
The Italian club refused to insert an option clause in the season-long loan agreement they signed off in August, but Milinkovic is taken by life in Edinburgh and by the frenetic nature of Scottish football.
In his first media interview since arriving at Tynecastle, the French/Serbian winger told the Evening News he will hold talks with Genoa officials next month to ascertain his future. He wants to know if their stance has changed after they were unwilling to give Hearts the option to sign him permanently next summer.
Milinkovic’s complicated loan deal involves a sub-loan from another Italian club, Foggia, whom he joined during the summer before hearing of Hearts’ interest. He negotiated a quick exit and flew to Scotland for the chance to play top-flight football rather than spend a year in Italy’s Serie B.
So happy is he with the decision that he now wants to explore the possibility of joining Hearts full-time.
“Genoa refused to put a clause in the loan contract. At the end of the season, if I am doing well and I am still happy here, I will try to stay here,” said the 23-year-old. “In January, I plan to speak to Genoa to see what the situation is. It does not only depend on me, there are a lot of people involved in this. I will give 100 per cent in the matches and then I will speak with Genoa and see what is going to happen.
“I signed for Foggia in July and after a couple of games my agent told me a club from Scotland were interested in me. I checked the internet and I saw Hearts were a good team playing in the top division. It was a good opportunity to play in a top league and show myself. I was really interested in coming here.
“It was an easy decision because it was really important to me to play in the top division. I saw the stadium and the atmosphere. When I saw that it was not difficult to decide. I wanted to come here, work hard, train hard and play games.
“If the club is happy with me and the coach tells me they want me to stay, why not? I feel good here. I want to play games, I want to score and I want some assists.”
Hearts’ last two matches, against Partick Thistle and Ross County, have seen Milinkovic start consecutively for the first time. He is expected to retain his place against Hamilton tomorrow. So far he has offered glimpses of his potential without being able to gain real momentum. He can play wide on the left or right flank, likes to run at opponents and tries to supply crosses and goals from wide areas.
“My strengths are that I am quick, I have good skills and I always give 100 per cent in games,” he said. “Even if I am having a bad game, I still try to give the maximum. These are the biggest things I can give to Hearts.
“It was hard for me to wait on the sidelines when I first joined the club but I always trained hard. I always give 100 per cent in training so I was ready for the chance to play. I saw the results were not the best but now I am playing. I hope the coach [Craig Levein] continues to let me play for the next few weeks and that will give me confidence to show my qualities. I am surprised at the level of the teams here. I like the football and I’m happy to be here. This is a good team and a good club. The results are not so good but I hope this will be better in the next few weeks.”
Supporters are slowly warming to this enigmatic player who grew up in France but undertook his footballing education in the tough Serbian league before heading to Italy. Even the biting Scottish winter doesn’t put him off, for Milinkovic is not your typical “fancy-dan foreigner”.
“I’m used to the weather here because I’m from Serbia and it’s cold there as well. It’s not a big difference.” In fairness, his work rate off the ball is enough to keep even the coldest-blooded mammal warm. That industry and endeavour has endeared him to many Hearts fans already during the early part of his time in the Capital.
“Hard work is part of my game. From the first to the last minute, I will do everything,” he stressed. “If I need to come back to help my team-mates, I will do it. I really enjoy that because it’s just natural for me. When I turn round and see supporters cheering me for doing that, I know it makes them happy. It’s really beautiful to see them shouting for me.
“When I hear the supporters shouting, it gives me power and energy to do more and more. I really like this part of the game in Scotland.
“In Italy and Serbia, it’s more about the beautiful football with nice passes to keep the supporters happy. Here, you can see the supporters are so happy when you just work hard and give everything. I’m excited to do this to make the Hearts fans happy.”
Yet he is desperate to give something extra; to show the Gorgie masses there is much more to this loanee than the odd jink, twist, flick or cross.
“I miss not scoring or assisting,” admitted Milinkovic. “In the games, I try to provide crosses and passes but nothing has happened after that. I’m a little bit disappointed because I always want to get a goal or an assist. It’s part of my game.
“I will try to continue doing my best and hopefully, in the next few games, I will have more goals and assists.”