When Radomir Antic assumed the Serbian reins shortly before their South Africa 2010 qualification campaign began, he was faced with the dilemma of finding a partner for Dejan Stankovic in the engine room. It was one he solved by handing Nenad Milijas his debut for their curtain-raiser against Faroe Islands.
The tall, creative playmaker proved the perfect sidekick for the veteran captain thereafter, and their midfield impetus helped thrust the Beli Orlovi to first place in their pool above France.
Born in 1983, Milijas started out at Zemun, whom he debuted for in 2000. He was a regular on their team-sheet within a year and went on to make 130 league appearances for the Belgrade minnows, before crossing the city to join the mighty Crvena Zvezda in 2006.
Milijas immediately began making waves for the capital heavyweights, operating as a central playmaker - his preferred position - or on the left wing. He helped them do the league and cup double in the 2006 and 2007 campaigns, but it was in the 2008/09 season that he took his game on to a different level. Indeed, despite the fact that his team stumbled home in a disappointing third position, the cerebral left-footer finished up as the competition’s second-top scorer and best player.
It was more than enough to ignite the interest of clubs from England and Germany, with Wolverhampton Wanderers ultimately winning the battle for his signature. Milijas has found himself in and out of the starting XI at Molineux, although he scored a stunning first goal for the club from distance in a 2-1 defeat of Bolton Wanderers in December 2009. “It was normal,” he said afterwards, referring to his ability to strike the ball from long-range. “I have scored many goals like that. Many, many.”
Milijas was a member of Serbia’s squad at the UEFA European U-21 Championship in 2006.