NEWCASTLE Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna believes Dimi Petratos will be an even better player when he returns from representing Australia at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Petratos will become the first Jet – and the first Newcastle player since Col Curran in 1974 – to play for the Socceroos at a World Cup, after he was named on Sunday in Bert van Marwijk’s 23-man squad for the world’s greatest footballing tournament.
Andrew Nabbout, who left the Jets mid-season to join Urawa Red Diamonds in Japan, was also selected.
Petratos was outstanding for the Jets last season, sweeping their player-of-the-year awards and finishing runner-up in the A-League’s Johnny Warren Medal voting after a series of dazzling displays that helped Newcastle reach the grand final.
McKinna had no doubt a World Cup campaign would take the 25-year-old’s game to an even higher level.
“When players go into the national team, the whole environment is a step up,” McKinna said.
“It’s like when we bring one of the young boys in to train with the first team. They just get better, because they are challenged every day and they thrive on it.
“It will be the same for Dimi in the World Cup squad. It’s a different level of intensity.
“He’ll be playing with and against international players, and I’m sure he’ll improve from that, and so the Jets will benefit as well.”
Petratos has one season remaining on his deal with Newcastle and McKinna has already spoken to his manager about a contract extension.
If Petratos was to attract attention from foreign clubs with his World Cup performances, McKinna said: “That’s football and we’ll just have to deal with it.”
McKinna was just as excited about the selection of Nabbout, whose 46 games and 18 goals for the Jets helped clinch his seat on the plane to Russia.
We still class Andrew as one of our players, because the reason he got in the World Cup squad was how well he played and the goals he scored for the Jets,” McKinna said.
Nabbout scored his first goal for Australia in Friday’s 4-0 friendly win against the Czech Republic.