He came quietly but quite quickly made a name for himself instantly becoming a fan favorite for his excellent saves and an irreplaceable part of the team. A lot of people see new Arpad Sterbik in him but young Dejan Milosavljev puts team's success over individual.
You arrived to Vardar as a second-choice goalie in order to learn and develop but instead you quickly became an irreplaceable part of the first team. Vardar are having an amazing start of the season with five SEHA League victories and four in EHF Champions League. Did you expect any of these great things to happen as fast as they eventually did?
Honestly – no. However, right now I'm sure I'm in the right place because I feel like we're doing a great job preparing for all the challenges and I believe my teammates, club, goalkeeper's coach Dejan Peric all really support me. It is not an easy thing to be first-choice goalkeeper in such a team and play in front of such amazing fans because it puts a lot of pressure on your back but I repeat, I feel like I'm in the right place which will only help me develop through time.
What was your first thought when Vardar called?
They first contacted me while I was with the national team in Croatia back in January. My manager informed me that Vardar are interested in signing me and asked what were my thoughts about that and I immediately said I want to be a part of the team.
How hard was it for you to get used to new training regime and change your mindset in terms of club’s ambitions and goals?
The fact that we have such a great team located in Macedonia and full of Balkan players definitely helped me become a part of the group quicker and easier. We all have quite similar mentality which clearly helps players from this region adapt way faster to all these new things.
You arrived to Vardar in a moment when there were a lot of changes going on. Did the reality you witnessed upon arrival to Vardar meet your expectations?
I didn’t expect experienced players will be so close to all the young players, eager to help and support us. That felt great and was the most exciting thing for me to see upon arrival. Also, we have a beautiful hall and best training conditions which is great. It is fantastic that Skopje and Macedonia in general have something like that.
What did the final play against Rhein Neckar Löwen here in Skopje feel like? Was that the first time you experienced Skopje atmosphere?
I knew how good it can be but yeah, this was the first time for me to actually experience it. I can’t easily explain that. At times I felt like I needed support and whenever I’d turn towards the fans they’d boost me with confidence. My fiancé and mother were also in the stands and they were filled with emotions after the match. Fans here are definitely on a different level.
Fans have already named you Baby Sterbik. How do you deal with the pressure now that everyone expects you to be even better than him?
First of all there is only one Arpad Sterbik and he is the best goalkeeper of all time. Nickname is great and I’m trying to help the team as much as he did and I feel like fans recognized it. They loved him because he brought that something special and I will do my best to succeed him.
Many underestimated Vardar at the beginning of the season. How did you deal with that?
I don’t see us as underdogs against anyone. Some people expected the match against Löwen to be way harder than it actually was because they have a fast team and we’re dealing with a quite tough injury situation. Every time we sense someone underestimated us it definitely motivates us to prove who we are and we have a lot of players eager to prove their worth in the team right now.
What is Vardar’s secret in your opinion?
It’s all about the emotions, I can’t describe it. Even when we’re losing it doesn’t feel that way. We all believe that if we all give our best we’ll manage to make the difference and come out on top. I believe our experienced players have a lot to do with it.
Vardar also see SEHA Gazprom League as an important competition. You are a favorite to go all the way but several team will once again look to defeat you.
SEHA amazed me with its organization level. I didn’t think it was that good back when I was just a spectator. PPD Zagreb and Meshkov are two teams we might eventually have a hard time with. Everyone sees Vardar on the F4 tournament and we’ll do everything to get there obviously. NEXE and Tatran are also playing well so we’ll have to be careful against them.
What about Dejan Milosavljev when he is not on the court? Do people recognize you in the streets?
I spend a lot of time in the apartment watching and analyzing games or some autobiographies I find especially interesting. I’m really close to my family and fiancé who really helped me get through some tough times. I do not feel like a celebrity in Skopje. We all spend time with children on the court after games and some people recognize me in the streets which means a lot really. Fan love means much.
You’ve signed a three-year long contract with Vardar. Where do you see yourself after that?
In Vardar. I have three years on my contract and I don’t think about any other club really. I feel amazing here and I’d love to stay here for 15 years, my whole career. I see why all the players love this club and are eager to remain here until the end of their playing careers.