During the Cup of Nations in February, Westfield Matildas coach Ante Milicic backed striker Sam Kerr to become a global star at this year's FIFA Women’s World Cup. She may, he says, be ahead of schedule.
Milicic, 45, has already seen evidence of the prolific Australian forward rising to his challenge to set her fearsome reputation in stone.
Australia boss Milicic handed Kerr the captaincy in February, and he says the respect the Chicago Red Stars forward commands on the home front, and in the USA – where she has won back-to-back National Women's Soccer League Golden Boots – is starting to spread more noticeably through the footballing world.
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“One thing that did stand out to me was when we played our third [Cup of Nations] game against Argentina," Milicic told ABC Radio National’s Fran Kelly on Tuesday morning.
“I couldn’t help but notice a lot of players coming up to Sammy and wanting to take either a photo with her or to swap jerseys.
“I think that gave people a real idea of what a world star she is.”
Kerr, 25, has scored 15 goals in 2019 for club and country and helped steer hometown club Perth Glory to the Westfield W-League 2019 Grand Final in February.
She followed that by captaining Australia to inaugural Cup of Nations success with impressive victories over New Zealand, Korea Republic and Argentina.
Those achievements are an example of why the Fremantle-born forward has been nominated for BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year for a second year in a row.
“She’s very respected in the world game and I think we have to be proud of that and really embrace that, because she’s still got a lot of good football in front of her,” Milicic said.
“I’ve been to two World Cups with the men’s team as well. I’ve worked with some fantastic leaders... with Mile Jedinak, Timmy Cahill and Mark Milligan, some fantastic professionals.
“I see a lot of those leadership qualities in Sammy.”