Mikic hopes to extend Sanfrecce stay after 200 J1 appearances

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midfielder has pledged one more season to the club he considers his family after achieving his 200th J1 League appearance.

The 36-year-old came off to applause from the traveling faithful in the 88th minute of his side’s 2-1 win at Shonan Bellmare on Saturday night.

Mikic, who arrived in 2009 from Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb, has been a constant presence on the right wing, helping to anchor a Sanfrecce squad which has won three J.League championships in the last four seasons.

“When I first came to Hiroshima I didn’t think I’d be able to play for this long,” the player told Football Channel’s Cesare Polenghi after the match. “I’ve reached this point by working hard and taking each year step by step.”

Having returned to the starting lineup following a mid-season hamstring injury, Mikic is already looking beyond the team’s goal of defending their J.League crown.

“My personal goal for this season is to earn one more year on my contract and retire in Hiroshima after next season,” he revealed.

The former Croatia U-21 selection credited his family, both immediate and adopted, for his success over the years.

“My family have enjoyed Hiroshima as much as I do,” Mikic said. “It’s been a huge help for them to be close to me. And at Sanfrecce, I have a family as big as my own.”

One of his biggest cheerleaders is Hajime Moriyasu, who since becoming manager in 2012 has turned Sanfrecce into one of the league’s powerhouses.

“He’s an absolute professional and gives 100 percent on the pitch,” said Moriyasu, himself a Sanfrecce legend with nearly 300 league appearances. “Off the pitch he works hard to get ready for each match.

“Mikic is an amazing player; even though he played for great clubs in Europe he doesn’t have an ego and always works with the goal of contributing to the team.”