Dejan Savićević


Dejan Savićević
Dejan Savićević
Дејан Савићевић
Personal information
Full name Dejan Savićević
Date of birth 15 September 1966 (1966-09-15) (age 45)
Place of birth Titograd, SFR Yugoslavia
Playing position Attacking midfielder / Winger
Youth career
1981–1983 OFK Titograd
1983–1984 Budućnost Titograd
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1983–1988 Budućnost Titograd 131 (35)
1989–1992 Red Star Belgrade 72 (23)
1992–1998 Milan 97 (20)
1999 Red Star Belgrade 3 (0)
1999–2001 Rapid Wien 44 (18)
National team
1986–1999 SFRY/FRY[1] 56 (19)
Teams managed
2001–2003 FR Yugoslavia / Serbia & Montenegro
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Dejan Savićević (Serbian Cyrillic: Дејан Савићевић, pronounced [dɛ̂jan saʋǐːt͡ɕɛʋit͡ɕ]) (born 15 September 1966 in Titograd, Montenegro, SFR Yugoslavia), is a Montenegrin former football player and is the president of the Montenegrin FA.[2]

His close control and superb vision have won him many admirers during his time with Red Star Belgrade and A.C. Milan. Following an illustrious professional playing career that lasted 19 seasons in total, as well as short and unsuccessful head coaching stint in early 2000s, he's turned to administrative matters - becoming, during summer 2004, the president of Montenegrin FA (FSCG).

Contents

Early years

Born to Orthodox parents Vladimir Savićević and Vojislava Đurović, young Dejan had an immediate affinity for football and quickly developed his gift for the game

Club career

Savićević began playing structured football during the summer of 1981 in the youth teams of OFK Titograd. He was almost 15 years old at the time, which by professional football standards is considered fairly late to be starting out. Before that, and even in parallel to playing with OFK, his involvement with the game revolved around outdoor futsal tournaments on concrete and clay surfaces. Since this kind of "scaled-down football" was very popular in Titograd at the time, many tournaments of semi-formal character were organized in and around the town. Barely a teenager at this point, Savićević played for a team that consisted of men from his street (the informal team was named Tehnohemija after a sponsor company) and quickly marked himself out as skilled player with great ball control and good overall technical ability.

During his year and a half at OFK Titograd he occasionally made appearances with the full squad, but mostly played in the youth setup. In January 1983 at the age of 16, he transferred across town to the more established top-tier league club FK Budućnost on insistence of their head coach at the time Milutin Folić.

FK Budućnost

Between January 1983 and summer 1984, young Savićević played at Budućnost's youth setup along with a few appearances with the full squad. Furthermore, he made regular appearances with Yugoslavia national under-20 football team as well as with SR Montenegro youth select team (alongside future notable professionals such as Božidar Bandović and Refik Šabanadžović) that competed at annual tournaments against other Yugoslav republics' select squads.

In the summer 1984, in preparation for the coming 1984-85 league season, newly arrived head coach Josip Duvančić made 17-year-old Savićević a full squad member at the expense of aging club legend Ante Miročević who was essentially forced into retirement with a position on the club's coaching staff given to him. The season turned out to be a disaster as the club barely avoided relegation while Duvančić got sacked after only six months at the helm, however, for Savićević personally it marked a bit of breakthrough as he recorded 29 league appearances, scoring 6 goals.

Ahead of 1986-87 season, head coach Milan Živadinović took over the reins and the team started off very well, continually keeping pace by staying in the top 3 as the season went on. In the second half the season, Budućnost ran out of steam, eventually finishing in 7th spot, but Savićević further solidified his playmaking and goalscoring credentials. He earned his first cap for the national side in October 1986 against Turkey.

By 1987-88 season, bigger teams such as Red Star Belgrade and FK Partizan started expressing interest in his services, and he soon reached a verbal agreement with Red Star about transferring to their ranks. By late March 1988, Hajduk Split also joined the chase for his signature and, according to Savićević's claims, offered the largest sum of money of the three, but the player still decided to honor his agreement with Red Star.

Red Star Belgrade

Savićević thus joined league champions Red Star Belgrade led by 23-year-old attacking midfielder Dragan Stojković who already established himself as the team leader. The club additionally had supremely talented 19-year-old midfielder Robert Prosinečki as well as a potent up-and-coming all around squad.

Barely a few days after signing with Red Star, still 21-year-old Savićević promptly got called in to serve the mandatory army stint that would keep him out of action for the entire 1988-89 league season. There was much speculation at the time that the timing of the call-up was FK Partizan's (army club with many ties to top military authorities) revenge to the player for signing with their biggest rivals. Serving at nearby Topčider barracks, the state authorities did allow him to turn up for Red Star's European matches and national team games. Another player joining the club the same summer was Darko Pančev, 22-year-old natural striker with great goalscoring pedigree from Vardar Skopje, who also went away to the army right after signing.

1988-89 season

Savićević, a serving soldier at the time, made his competitive debut for Red Star during September 1988 in the first round European Champions' Cup clash versus Irish champion Dundalk FC, scoring his first goal for the new club during the 3–0 return leg rout. Six weeks later, Savićević re-appeared in the epic second-round match-up against AC Milan played over three matches in late October and early November 1988. He played a prominent part in the first leg at San Siro as Red Star played to a hard fought 1-1 draw with Dragan Stojković scoring the valuable away goal. The return leg in Belgrade was even more eventful as Savićević had his team up 1–0 with an excellent strike, but German referee Dieter Pauly stopped and voided the match because of thick fog that engulfed the city. The second leg replay was played the very next day, resulting again in 1–1 scoreline, taking the match to penalties where the Italians came up on top 2-4 as Savićević and Mitar Mrkela failed to convert their spot-kicks.

1989–90 season

Savićević's first season in earnest with Red Star was 1989–90. During the summer 1989 off-season, head coach Branko Stanković was let go and Dragoslav Šekularac was brought in as replacement. The change suited Savićević just fine as he and another key player Dragan Stojković never saw eye to eye with Stanković.

Savićević helped Red Star win three consecutive national titles - in 1989–90, 1990–91 and 1991–92, two national Cups in 1990 and 1992 as well as a European Cup and an Intercontinental Cup, both in 1991.

In 1991, following Red Star's European success, Savićević came joint second in the voting for the European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d'Or). In choice of newspaper Sport, he was declared the best athlete of Yugoslavia.

AC Milan

Savićević's tremendous close control and vision convinced Serie A champions A.C. Milan to secure his services for the reported DM30 million[3] (≈ £9.4 million) ahead of the 1992/93 season as part of the £34 million worth of transfer fees Silvio Berlusconi injected into the team that summer. Also arriving to an already star-laden squad during the same transfer window were the world-class players Jean-Pierre Papin (world record signing at that moment for £10 million if only for a few weeks until Juve bought Gianluca Vialli from Sampdoria for £12 million), Zvonimir Boban, Gianluigi Lentini (another Berlusconi's world record signing for £13 million), and Stefano Eranio.

1992–93 season

Dejan was thus handed the opportunity to demonstrate his abilities in what was at the time the financial center of European club football - a league where the world's best footballers played. His Serie A debut took place away at Pescara on 13 September 1992, two days before his 26th birthday. Milan won 4-5 that day at Stadio Adriatico.

However, his first season for the Rossoneri under head coach Fabio Capello turned out to be a rather modest affair that saw him feature in only 10 league matches, contributing four goals to Milan's successful title defense. Since Savićević was Berlusconi's rather than Capello's signing, the head coach pretty much ignored him during the first half of the season. All-star Milan squad already had a creative midfield presence in influential Marco van Basten who, when healthy, was the preferred option by Capello throughout most of the season. Even the 30-year-old Ruud Gullit who was increasingly becoming a peripheral figure in Milan under Capello was still ahead of Savićević in the pecking order most of the time. Due to UEFA enforcing the three foreigners rule at the time, Savićević often found himself omitted from the squad on matchdays since in addition to Gullit and van Basten, the Milan roster also featured high quality foreigners Frank Rijkaard, Papin, and Boban. Additionally, Capello often preferred workhorse midfielders such as Demetrio Albertini and Stefano Eranio for his tactical setup over the high-priced creative imports.[4]

Savićević and Capello quickly developed an antagonistic relationship with the former frustrated at being regularly dropped from the first team, and the latter unwilling to change the winning formula that had the team on an undefeated run in the league dating back to May 1991 (the streak would eventually end after 58 matches in March 1993 versus Parma). In November 1992, when asked how he copes with leaving out world class players such as Savićević or Papin, Capello responded:

It's very difficult for all these great players. At most clubs, there's a squad of 15 or 16. Here we have 24. They have to change their mentality just like I've had to change mine. This is a different way of doing the job. It means they have to be prepared to work hard even when they aren't in the team. Work, work, work. That's the only way. It's not easy for them.[4]

By December, Savićević was so unhappy with his status at the club that he made a firm decision to leave during the winter transfer window as he had offers from Olympique Marseille and Atletico Madrid.[5] However, he decided to stay.

It was not until 24 January 1993 that Savićević scored his first goal – a 78th-minute penalty kick effort at home versus Genoa that turned out to be the game-winner. Finally opening his scoring account encouraged Savićević somewhat and two weeks later he got another one versus lowly Pescara. His shining moment in the otherwise forgettable debut league season in Italy came on 7 March 1993 at home versus Fiorentina when he scored a second-half brace for a 2–0 Milan win.

To cap off the frustrating season, Savićević was not included in the team Capello took to Munich to face Olympique de Marseille in the 1993 UEFA Champions League Final.

At the end of the campaign, following his less than mediocre season, Savićević's fate at the club was being decided among Milan brass. Capello wanted him out while Berlusconi was adamant about the player staying and getting more opportunities to play.[6]

1993–94 season

The summer 1993 off-season brought some player personnel changes that would end up benefiting Savićević. His main two attacking midfield competitors Gullit and van Basten were gone, the former transferring to Sampdoria frustrated at seeing his role at Milan greatly reduced and the latter taking a year off to heal his ankle injury that would eventually turn out to be career-ending. Also, Frank Rijkaard transferred to Ajax, which freed up even more room. New foreign summer arrivals Brian Laudrup and Florin Răducioiu found little playing in Capello's structure, all of which made the competition for three foreign spots easier for the remaining foreigners Savićević, Boban, and Papin during the first part of the season.

From the beginning of the new league campaign, Savićević started getting more first team opportunities and responded with decent performances. Although still not a regular in true sense and often played out of position, he finally began to establish himself in the club. However, more setbacks would follow. First, as the Champions League group phase began in late November 1993, Capello named Savićević to the reserves for the first match away at Anderlecht to which the Montenegrin reacted by refusing to sit on the bench thereby causing a lot of friction in the club.[7] Then, a couple of weeks later in mid-December, the antagonism continued as Capello dropped him from the squad altogether for the 1993 Intercontinental Cup in Tokyo versus Telê Santana's São Paulo, which led to another heated run-in between the midfielder and the coach. This mutiny of sorts actually ended up working out for Savićević since he became a regular for the remainder of the season, putting in a significant contribution to the Serie A and Champions League double, despite not scoring any goals in his 20 league appearances.

The playing setup Capello employed throughout this season was an extremely defensive 4-4-2 that resulted in the entire squad scoring only 36 goals in 34 league matches while letting in only 15.[8] Further solidifying the defensive focus was the December arrival of Marcel Desailly who became a regular right away. Still, for his inspirational and creative play, Savićević was hailed as Il Genio (The Genius) by club president Berlusconi with whom Dejan developed great rapport. Basically, it was Berlusconi's personal support that kept Savićević from leaving the club at various low points of his relationship with Capello.[9]

Still, the season ended on a high note for Savićević. His performance in the 1994 UEFA Champions League Final at Athens' Olympic Stadium on May 18 would turn out to be his greatest moment in football and arguably one of the finest individual displays seen in the competition.[10] He already gave indications of improved form and confidence in the second part of the Champions League season, scoring twice during March right after the winter break in consecutive home-and-away matches versus Werder Bremen (though the goal at San Siro came as result of an atrocious mistake by Werder defender).[11] Still, despite smoothly finishing on top of the group and easily winning the one-match semifinal, Milan was in bit of a disarray heading into the final as both central defenders Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta, the core of Capello's tactical defensive setup, were suspended. Considering that the opponent was the high-flying Johan Cruijff's FC Barcelona "dream team" with Romario, Hristo Stoichkov, Ronald Koeman, José Mari Bakero, Pep Guardiola, etc., Capello made a decision to fight fire with fire by sending out a lot more offense-minded formation. The changed approach suited Savićević just fine: he created the opening goal for Daniele Massaro and then scored a spectacular 35 yard half volley for 3-0 to put the game beyond Barcelona's reach. The sheer audacity and technical brilliance of the goal - decision to go for a well-placed lob from the right edge of the penalty area on Barca goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta who was slightly off his line in a situation when most would get closer and opt for a hard-driven shot as no defender was near - won Savićević much praise and accolades.

1994-95 season

Despite his much publicized Champions League final performance, the following 1994-95 season began much the same way for Savićević. His stock at the club was obviously raised, but since Capello returned to his usual manner of running the team with tactics and defense dominating over offensive creativity, Savićević was still forced to endure occasional omissions on match days (though the competition for foreign spots became easier with only returnee Gullit who left again by mid-season, Boban, and Desailly as competition). On top of that, nagging injuries followed Savićević throughout the season so the Montenegrin only appeared in 19 league matches out of 34. However, he managed to score 9 league goals (his greatest single season scoring output in Serie A), including 4 goals in a single match on 14 January 1995[12] versus Bari at Stadio San Nicola, the site of his European Cup triumph with Red Star.

Despite the team’s mid-table Serie A form in 1995, Savićević continually played well for Milan in the Champions League en route to their third successive final that, for him, culminated in a spectacular semi-final versus Paris SG, where he scored twice in the return leg at San Siro.[13] Before that in the first leg Savićević set up Boban in injury time for the game's only goal.[14] Despite his brilliant performance against PSG and his statistical importance to the team in 1995, he was not part of the team Capello took to Vienna for the 1995 Champions League Final due to 'injury', even though Savićević insisted he was fit. In the final, very negative and defense-minded Milan created few opportunities and ultimately lost to Louis van Gaal's Ajax 1-0.

1995-96 season

New foreign arrivals Paulo Futre and George Weah as well as the signing of Roberto Baggio increased the midfield competition, but 29-year-old Savićević managed to turn in a successful season with 23 league appearances and 6 league goals. His brightest moments occurred in the Derby della Madonnina as he finally scored a goal versus the cross-town rivals Inter. On more than one occasion Savićević displayed his amazing technical skills and ball control such as when he dribbled and danced around Parma defenders Fernando Couto and Luigi Apolloni to set up Baggio for the opening goal against Parma at San Siro, before scoring one of his own for 3-0 final score.[15]

In his total career at the San Siro, Milan won 7 trophies, including 3 scudetti (Serie A championships) - 1992-93, 1993–94, 1995–96, 1 European Cup - 1993-94 and 1 European Super Cup, but he was criticized in the Italian media for not always trying against smaller teams and his performances regularly blew hot and cold.

International

Spanning 13 years, Savićević's national team career is divided in two distinct parts: first six years under head coach Ivica Osim when the country was called SFR Yugoslavia featuring six republics and last five years under head coach Slobodan Santrač representing FR Yugoslavia, which consisted of Serbia and Montenegro.

His years under Osim were marked by the tumultuous relationship the two men shared,[16][17] with conservative Osim often distrustful of Savićević's talents, preferring players he considered to be more mature and reliable for the places upfront such as Zlatko Vujović, Mehmed Baždarević, Dragan Stojković, and even veteran Safet Sušić.

Under Santrač, Savićević was an automatic regular, but due to the UN embargo imposed on FR Yugoslavia and resulting sporting sanctions, he missed two and a half years of national team football altogether. Also, since Yugoslavia did not resume playing competitive matches until mid 1996, it meant Savićević was prevented from playing any competitive national team matches from the time he was 25 until almost turning 30.

Euro 88 qualifying

Savićević made his national team debut, while still at Budućnost, on 29 October 1986 in a Euro 88 qualifier versus Turkey in Split.[18] Head coach Ivica Osim, who himself was only in his fourth match overall coaching the national team (and his first doing it alone as he previously shared the coaching duties with Ivan Toplak), put the talented 20-year-old in as the 53rd minute substitute for Haris Škoro with Yugoslavia 2-0 up through Zlatko Vujović's first half brace. Debutante Savićević wasted no time in making a mark as he scored the goal for 3-0 in 73rd minute before Vujović completed a hat-trick for a 4-0 final scoreline.[19] However, despite getting a goal on his debut, Savićević's thunder was somewhat stolen by another debutante - 22-year-old Semir Tuce who put in a confident midfield display on the left wing that got him all the headlines. Two weeks later Osim did not call up Savićević for the important qualifier away at Wembley versus England while Tuce got the callup and made a second half substitute appearance. Yugoslavia lost 0-2.

Youngster Savićević would wait a whole year for his second cap. In mid October 1987, Euro 1988 qualifying was still on with Yugoslavia playing Northern Ireland at Grbavica in Sarajevo, and he came on as the second half sub again, this time for Fadil Vokrri. Yugoslavia won the game easily 3-0, and with England destroying Turkey 8-0 at home on the same day, the stage was set for the crucial Yugoslavia vs. England clash that would decide who goes to Germany. If England was to win or draw it would automatically qualify and if Yugoslavia was to win, it would then also have to later win away at Turkey in order to qualify and overtake England. The match was played on 11 November 1987 in front of a packed house of 70,000 at Marakana in Belgrade and Savićević again did not get a chance to play as England beat Yugoslavia 1-4, thus qualifying for the Euro.

A month later, Osim gave 21-year-old Savićević his first national team start in a meaningless remaining qualifier versus Turkey in İzmir.

Over the coming period between two qualifying cycles, Yugoslavia played six friendlies from March to September 1988 and Savićević featured in only first two of them (full 90 minutes versus Wales and Italy in late March 1988) as his uneasy relationship with Osim - who was not fired by the Yugoslav FA despite the failure to qualify for Euro 88 - continued.

World Cup 1990 qualifying

The 1990 FIFA World Cup qualifying started in October 1988 with Savićević, who in the meantime completed the big time summer move to Red Star Belgrade and right away went to serve the mandatory army service, not being called up for the first match away at Scotland.

Then, a month later, perhaps surprisingly knowing the coach's conservative nature, Osim brought on the in-form Savićević (who was coming off a great performance in Red Star's tie versus AC Milan) as a 69th minute sub for Bora Cvetković right after France went ahead 1-2 a minute earlier on a goal by Franck Sauzée. The substitution paid off in a big way as French players had no answer for Savićević's fresh legs and creativity in midfield. Dejan first participated in a move that ended with Sušić scoring the equalizer and then with two players guarding him provided a perfect cross from the right for Red Star teammate Stojković to score the winning goal in 83rd minute as Yugoslavia recorded a big comeback 3-2 win at the JNA Stadium in Belgrade.

Savićević's great performance against France put him in Osim's good books, for the time being at least, as he got a chance to start the next qualifier at home versus Cyprus in December. Dejan, still officially in his army service, returned the favour, scoring a hat-trick as Yugoslavia won 4-0 at Marakana. The following qualifier in late April 1989 was a crucial one away at France and Osim decided not to play Savićević, choosing instead to continue with his older regulars upfront such as Zlatko Vujović, Sušić, and Baždarević as Yugoslavia eked out a hard fought scoreless draw at the Parc des Princes.

Savićević would also not play in the next qualifier away at Norway, returning only as a second half sub for Dragan Jakovljević in September 1989 at Maksimir in Zagreb versus Scotland. With the 3-1 win over Scotland, Yugoslavia overtook the Scots at the top of the table. So, with two matches remaining, Yugoslavia were now leading the pack with 10 points (4 wins and 2 draws) followed by Scotland with 9, and France and Norway with 5. In such circumstances, conservative Osim certainly was not about to tinker with the team, which meant that Savićević only got his chance in friendlies. The match point for Yugoslavia took place at Koševo in Sarajevo versus Norway in October 1989, and not surprisingly Savićević again did not get a single minute of play. The team won 1-0, and combinend with the fact that Scotland got beate by France 0-3 in Paris, Yugoslavia clinched the top spot in the group, qualifying for the World Cup in Italy. The last qualifier was a meaningless affair away at Cyprus (the match was actually played in Athens since Cyprus were penalized for the riots during their match versus Scotland), and Savićević got a chance to start along with a slew of other young and up-and-coming players from the domestic league that Osim normally shied away from using in competitive matches such as Darko Pančev, Robert Prosinečki, Branko Brnović, and Slobodan Marović.

World Cup 1990

Heading into the World Cup, Savićević's chances of playing a larger national team role looked to have received a bit of a boost as Mehmed Baždarević, one of his competitors for an attacking midfield spot, was suspended by FIFA for spitting at the Turkish referee Yousouf Namoglou during the crucial qualifier versus Norway. However, Savićević did not get a chance in the first two friendlies in March at Poland and in May at home versus Spain, leading to conclusions that he would again be looking from the outside in. But then in early June, only 7 days before the opening World Cup match, he got to play the full 90 minutes at the "dress rehearsal" at Maksimir in Zagreb versus Holland where he put in an inspired performance.[20] The game itself, however, took a back seat to the controversy caused by nationalist Croatian fans who booed the Yugoslav national anthem and thoroughly insulted the players.

At San Siro on 10 June 1990, the same starting eleven that faced Holland in the final friendly also started versus Germany, including Savićević. Playing in front of almost 75,000 fans (the largest crowd of the entire 1990 FIFA World Cup), the team was picked apart by speed and strength of the German players as Lothar Matthäus and Jürgen Klinsmann had the Elf 2-0 up before halftime. Shortly after the break Davor Jozić pulled one back for Yugoslavia, which was a signal for head coach Osim to make changes in hopes of sparking a comeback. One minute later he took off Savićević who was mostly invisible, having a game to forget much like most of the Yugoslav team, and put Dragoljub Brnović on as part of the double midfield substitution that also saw Prosinečki replace Sušić. The move did not do much, though, as Matthäus rampaged through Yugoslav defense before unleashing a powerful shot for another score. Fourth German goal came as the final insult as goalkeeper Ivković made a mess of Brehme's easy shot.

Getting nothing from the Germany match pretty much meant that the next group contest versus Colombia was a must win. Osim made three changes in the starting lineup, and one of them was Savićević who got benched in favour of Brnović. Yugoslavia made tough work of the plucky Colombians, but got a 1-0 victory in the end with Savićević not getting a single minute of action. More or less the same lineup faced minnows United Arab Emirates in the final group match, which meant that Savićević was again surplus to Osim's requirements as Yugoslavia won easily 4-1.

In the knockout stages, Savićević was again on the bench for the start of the match against Spain in the excruciating late afternoon heat of Verona, but got his chance early into the second half with the score still tied at 0-0, coming on for largely ineffective club temmate Darko Pančev. Substituting striker for a midfielder, meant that Osim changed his formation from 3-5-2 to a bit more defensive 3-6-1 with only Zlatko Vujović up front. The match was soon taken over by Dragan Stojković who scored a beautiful goal in the 78th minute, but the score at the end of 90 minutes was 1-1, with Savićević putting in a confident performance. In the extra-time Stojković scored his second of the match on a masterfully placed free-kick. Incidentally, the free-kick came after a foul on Savićević during one of his surging runs across the midfield from right to left.

Despite his satisfactory showing against the Spaniards, Savićević was benched again for the quarterfinal clash against reigning world champions Argentina four days later. Starting the match in 4-5-1 formation, Osim had Zoran Vulić back in the lineup as part of the four-man defensive unit, and youngster Prosinečki replacing injured Katanec in midfield while Vujović was now alone in attack from the very start. Riding behind midfield playmaker Stojković,[21] Yugoslavia looked very good throughout the match even when reduced to ten men following the 31st minute expulsion of Refik Šabanadžović. Somewhat surprsingly, Osim did not make any substitutions after the sending off, deciding to wait until 15 minutes into the second half to put on Savićević instead of Sušić. Savićević's fresh legs gave the team a much needed infusion of energy and another target in the middle for Stojković to pass to after his surging runs, however Savićević was not able to convert on any of them. The most glaring miss came early on in the extra-time as Stojković masterfully got free on the right side before providing a perfect pass to Savićević who was unmarked 5–6 meters from the goal line. Alone in front of keeper Sergio Goycochea and with goal at his mercy, Savićević somehow put the ball over the bar. It was one the best chances created by either team throughout the entire match.

1998 World Cup

Dejan Savićević was picked as a part of Yugoslavia's national squad for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. He appeared in two games, the first one being a group-stage game against the United States[22] and the second one against the Netherlands.[23]

Coaching career

Savićević's two-year spell as head coach of the national side was a polar opposite of his distinguished playing career.

Immediately after retiring from playing in May 2001, he was named as head coach of the FR Yugoslavia / Serbia-Montenegro national squad, in succession to the short, tempestuous, and hugely disappointing 3-month tenure of Milovan Đorić. Despite Savićević's complete lack of any relevant coaching experience, and the side's already faint chances of progressing from the World Cup 2002 qualifying tournament, the announcement of his appointment was generally well received by the public. His appointment came as part of the general changing of the guard in the Yugoslav FA with Dragan Stojković (Savićević's good personal friend) taking over as the FA president.

2002 World Cup qualifying

At first, Savićević was part of a 3-man coaching commission with the experienced Vujadin Boškov and Ivan Ćurković by his side. At the time of their arrival to the bench, Yugoslavia was sitting in fourth place of the qualifying group with only 5 points from 4 matches, behind Russia (13 points), Switzerland (8), and Slovenia (7). However, Yugoslavia had a game in hand and with a win in Moscow had a chance to overtake Slovenia and join the Swiss tied on points in the second spot. On the other hand, a loss to Russia in Moscow would probably mean losing any hope of finishing in the top two.

Savićević thus faced a make it or break it prospect right on his coaching debut. Despite the fact that national team was officially headed by the three-man commission, Savićević was the only one of the trio present on the sidelines during matches and was the only one one available to the press. The team fielded on 2 June 2001 at Luzhniki Stadium was substantially the same as Đorić's, both in names called up and playing formation. Other than two debutants - goalkeeper Radovan Radaković and defensive midfielder Boban Dmitrović - the jist of the starting squad was still made up of old guard: players like Predrag Mijatović, Siniša Mihajlović, and Miroslav Đukić, all of whom were well over thirty, as well as longtime defensive mainstays such as Zoran Mirković and Goran Đorović. With a defensive approach and mostly unimaginative play with very little created through midfield, Yugoslavia never looked capable of winning. The match ended 1-1 as Russians went ahead following Radaković's poor reaction and Yugoslavia tied some fifteen minutes later on Mijatović's scrambled goal that he managed to put away after Savo Milošević's header hit the post.[24] The press reaction was not overly negative as the tied score still had the team on course for a second place finish.[25] After next two qualifiers, home and away against Faroe Islands, in which Yugoslavia recorded easy wins, came the decision time - facing Switzerland in a must win situation away on Saturday, September 1. Cheered on by the large expatriate crowd in Basel, Yugoslavia ended up winning 1-2 in what was easily the team's best showing under Savićević up to that point thus setting up the deciding match at home versus Slovenia four days later. Playing on tough surface as the Partizan Stadium pitch was soaked from the heavy rain that was pouring whole day and throughout the match, Yugoslavia went behind early and only managed to tie the score by the end, which was not enough for the second place. Despite dominating proceedings through veteran Mijatović who was the offensive focal point, the second goal proved elusive.[26] The chance still existed in theory if Faroe Islands managed to win or draw at Slovenia in the final match, however such unlikely scenario did not happen. Afer Slovenia game Savićević bemoaned the bad luck, citing playing in the rain on a soaked surface without injured regulars Mirković and Vladimir Jugović as the main reasons why his team failed to beat Slovenia.[27][28]

Savićević was handed the coaching duties all by himself in late December 2001. At the time, he claimed to have taken the solo job on temporary basis only, since Dušan Bajević rejected it.[29][30] Savićević also intimated the new permanent coach would take over by the summer of 2002. However, that did not happen and he remained in post until June 2003.

Euro 2004 qualifying

Throughout his reign, he failed to achieve a settled team, and his personal disputes with Mateja Kežman precipitated the striker to temporarily retire from international football. Savićević finally resigned in June 2003 after a humiliating 1-2 defeat to Azerbaijan in a Euro 2004 qualifier, which was also the team's fifth defeat in a row. His overall managerial record was 4 wins, 11 losses, and 2 draws, in addition to 4 wins, 2 losses, and 2 ties as part of the commission.

Administrative / Political career

In the summer of 2004, 37-year-old Savićević became the president of the Football Association of Montenegro (FSCG), which was at the time under the umbrella of Football Association of Serbia and Montenegro (FSSCG).

On 10 July 2009, Savićević got re-elected as Montenegrin FA president, and will remain at the post for another four years.[31]

His time at the job has been marked with frequent public feuding and controversy.

Feud with Milorad Kosanović

On 17 November 2004, Serbia-Montenegro under-21 national team lost 4-0 against the Belgian u-21 team in Lokeren as part of the qualification round for the 2006 European under-21 Championship.[32] In the wake of the disappointing result, Savićević publicly came out against u-21 head coach Milorad Kosanović by saying he should resign over the loss as well as over the fact that he did not call up any players from the teams based in Montenegro for the Belgium match. In support of his claims Savićević said that "Miroslav Vujadinović from Budućnost Podgorica is the best young goalkeeper in Europe and wasn't even called up for the under 21 squad" and went on to add that such state of affairs constitutes "discrimination of Montenegro".[33]

Over the coming months Savićević exerted continuous pressure within the FA ranks for Kosanović to be fired,[33] even going so far as to semi-officially boycott the under-21 team by refusing to allow Montenegrin players to turn up for Kosanović's callups.[34] Savićević's bullish behaviour strained the internal relations within the Serbia-Montenegro FA organization to a maximum. In late 2004, in an effort to ease the tense standoff, Serbia-Montenegro FA president Dragan Stojković (Savićević's close personal friend and longtime teammate during playing days) reportedly asked Kosanović to resign, which he vehemently refused.[35] As a result of the episode each member of the FA's expert council delegated from Serbia resigned in protest - Dušan Savić, Jovica Škoro, Milovan Đorić, and Miroslav Tanjga - with Savić stating he wants no part in this "dirty political game" while criticizing Savićević and Montenegrin FA for interfering in under-21 head coach's job.[35]

As for Kosanović, after initially managing to resist,[36] he eventually resigned some four months later on 8 March 2005.[37]

Montenegrin independence referendum

Savićević then publicly came out in favour of Montenegrin independence, becoming an important part of the pro-independence campaign organized by Movement for Independent Montenegro. He attended, and spoke at, rallies alongside Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Đukanović. Savićević's face also appeared on billboards urging the citizens of Montenegro to vote 'Yes' at the referendum.[38]

In spring 2006 while interviewed for Montenegrin local station NTV Montena, Savićević admitted to playing "in a couple of fixed matches" while with Budućnost in the old Yugoslav First League during the 1980s. He also claimed on the same occasion that most of the matches in that season's (2005-06) Serbia-Montenegro Superliga are fixed, but declined to elaborate or provide evidence by saying "I don't want to be killed because of football like Branko Bulatović".[39] Naturally, such controversial claims caused a lot of reaction. Serbia-Montenegro FA (FSSCG) announced formal investigation, arranging a hearing for Savićević to provide details and evidence of his claims.[40] Others, like FK Partizan vice-president Ratomir Babić, accused Savićević of scoring political points for his mentors in the separatist-oriented Montenegrin regime by intentionally spreading explosive false rumours in order to bring the union's league into disrepute.[40]

Feud with Rajo Božović

Simultaneously, all throughout 2006, Savićević butted heads with his own second-in-command, FSCG vice-president Radojica "Rajo" Božović who was also the president of FK Zeta at the time.

Their feud started in mid March 2006 after Zeta vs. Budućnost league fixture in the second part of 2005-06 Serbia-Montenegro Superliga season. Initially, the row culminated on 12 May 2006 during the FSSCG meeting in Belgrade where Savićević and Božović showed up as representatives of regional Montenegrin FA (FSCG). At the said meeting, Savićević abruptly left the premises following a vicious shouting match with Božović.[41] Since Montenegro became independent some 10 days later on 21 May 2006, FSCG became the top footballing body of the newly created country, responsible for the national team and also for organizing a football league. Savićević's presidential term continued as well.

In September 2006, a vicious public rift between two men got reignited following the cancellation of the scheduled league fixture between FK Zeta and Budućnost on 4 September 2006 due to threats of violence and incidents outside the ground between the clubs' managements. Božović accused Savićević of multiple infractions: favouring his old club Budućnost, working against Zeta, and tampering with the referee selection process. Savićević responded by calling on the Montenegrin government and ruling political party DPS to get involved.[42] In mid-October 2006, FSCG held a meeting during which the majority of delegates supported Savićević, deciding on the same occasion to relieve Božović of his duties as vice-president.[43]

Feud with Dan newspaper

Also in this period Savićević got into the row with Podgorica's Dan daily newspaper, an issue that's ongoing off-and-on to this day some five years later. Irritated by their criticism of his work as FA president, his pro-independence political engagement during 2006 referendum campaign, as well as his ties with the regime of Milo Đukanović, Savićević verbally abused, shouted at, and generally menaced Dan journalists during FA press conferences.[42] He especially went after Dan sports editor Veselin Drljević (former referee and former member of FSCG) with whom he has a long standing feud.

In March 2007, when Montenegro national team started playing matches, Savićević raised even more controversy when in an unprecedented move, using his powers as FA president, he banned Dan journalists from attending national team matches. In 2008, Dan editor-in-chief Mladen Milutinović complained about the situation to various international bodies including the International Sports Press Association (AIPS).[44] In 2009, the issue was even discussed at AIPS congress held in Milan during late April and early May.[45] Under pressure from AIPS,[46] Savićević eventually relented and allowed the issuing of matchday accreditation for Dan journalists.

The antagonism didn't end there, however. All throughout 2011, Savićević expressed anger with Dan's criticism of the national team head coach Zlatko Kranjčar, calling the publication a "Serbian-oriented paper that never has and never will accept Montenegro as an independent state".[47][48] Savićević even returned to his old ways on 7 October 2011, for the Montenegro vs. England Euro 2012 qualifier, refusing to issue accreditation for Dan.[49] Because of this, a protest against Savićević was published in their pages.[50]

Private life

Savićević was married to Valentina Brajović (divorced in 2000) with whom he has two children. One of his sons, Vladimir Savićević (born 1989), started his football career at FK Mladost Podgorica youth teams,[51] and was capped for Montenegrin U19 team.

Traffic infractions

Following a Saturday night out in Trebinje on 18 September 2004, Savićević was involved in an incident with Podgorica police at around 2:30am Sunday morning. After driving his Audi TT at a high rate of speed through Podgorica streets and running a red light, he was stopped by a police patrol. According to the police, when stopped, Savićević insulted the policeman with a series of obscenities and among other things said "I'm God, laws don't apply to me".[52][53]

Approximately a year later, Savićević was severely injured in a traffic accident that occurred 1 October 2005 on a Podgorica street. He fractured both arms after crashing his motorcycle into the rear end of a moving vehicle, becoming airborne and landing hard on the pavement. He's had three surgeries in Hannover, Germany during mid-to-late October 2005.[54][55] The recovery period was about six months long.

1999 Heckler Controversy

Savićević is the protagonist of a widely circulated internet clip (viral video) from a 1999 Dutch documentary about the 1987 World Youth Championship winning SFR Yugoslavia under-20 team. Most of the footage was shot in October 1999 just as the FR Yugoslavia and Croatia national teams were to play a deciding Euro 2000 qualifier in Zagreb. Conceptualized as a "what might've been" homage of sorts, the documentary interviews different members of the 1987 youth side, now split between the senior national teams of two countries. Savićević was not a member of that 1987 team, but the Dutch filmmakers still decided to include him in the film.

This particular clip shows 33-year-old Savićević being interviewed on the day before the match, in front of the hotel in Zagreb where Yugoslav team was staying. He is wearing Yugoslavia training gear and as such is easily spotted and recognized by people strolling by. As Dejan is answering a question, man on the street is heard shouting off-camera: "You're a piece of shit!".

Savićević looks up, realizes the comment was directed at him and answers the heckler by berating him with an obscenity laced tirade. After insulting him sufficiently, Savićević returns his attention to the interview and continues answering the question right where he left off without missing a beat.[56]

Honours

Club Career

Individual

In popular culture

In 1998, Serbian comedy rock band The Kuguars recorded the song "Dejo" (a cover of Harry Belafonte song "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)"), dedicating it to Savićević.[57][58]

References

  1. ^ Alpuin, Luis Fernando Passo; Mamrud, Roberto; Miladinovich, Misha (20 February 2009). "Yugoslavia (Serbia (and Montenegro)) - Record International Players". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. http://www.rsssf.com/miscellaneous/joeg-recintlp.html. Retrieved 12 March 2009. 
  2. ^ UEFA Magazine - Montenegro's new dawn by Aleksandar Bošković
  3. ^ Poslednji dribling genija i boga, Vreme, 1 June 2006
  4. ^ a b The night of glorious triumph that made Capello, The Guardian, 13 December 2007
  5. ^ Interview 2010
  6. ^ Interview 2010
  7. ^ Blast from the past! Dejan Savicevic looking forward to taking on Fabio Capello again when England face Montenegro;Daily Mail, 9 October 2011
  8. ^ How Capello won his nine league titles, The Guardian, 14 December 2007
  9. ^ The most beautiful game: Majestic Milan put flair to the fore and turn the European Cup final into a parade of their riches: Richard Williams in Athens sees a display rich in eloquence from the European champions, The Independent, 22 May 1994
  10. ^ Barcelona mesmerised by magic of Milan: Italians champions ignore their status as underdogs to reach Olympian heights in the humiliation of Spaniards , The Independent, 19 May 1994
  11. ^ Milan-Werder 2:1;UEFA Champions League, March 1994
  12. ^ Bari-Milan 3:5
  13. ^ Milan-PSG 2:0;UEFA Champions League, 19 April 1995
  14. ^ PSG-Milan 0:1;UEFA Champions League, 5 April 1995
  15. ^ Milan-Parma 3:0;Serie A, 1996
  16. ^ TEMA „BLICA“: Kako bi izgledala reprezentacija nekadašnje YU škole fudbala: Bivša SFRJ bi u Africi igrala polufinale!, Blic, 21 November 2009
  17. ^ Poslednji jugoslovenski fudbalski tim
  18. ^ Yugoslavia-Turkey 4:0;Euro 88 qualifying, 29 October 1986
  19. ^ Yugoslavia-Turkey 4:0
  20. ^ Yugoslavia-Holland 0:2, June 1990
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ Slick slavs save energy for Dutch - 26 June 1998
  23. ^ FIFA - Dejan Savicevic
  24. ^ Russia-Yugoslavia 1:1
  25. ^ Iz baraža na Mondijal, Blic, 4 June 2001
  26. ^ Reprezentacija Jugoslavije sinoć igrala nerešeno sa Slovenijom (1:1) i praktično se oprostila od Mondijala - Daleki Istok, Glas javnosti, 5 September 2001
  27. ^ Savićević: Ne moram da ostanem selektor, Blic, 7 September 2001
  28. ^ Dejan Savićević verovao da će plavi postići i drugi gol - Zaslužili smo baraž, Glas javnosti, 5 September 2001
  29. ^ Savićević selektor na (ne)određeno vreme, Glas javnosti, 28 December 2001
  30. ^ Yugoslavia turn to Savicevic; UEFA.com, 27 December 2001
  31. ^ Novi mandat za Savićevića, B92, 10 July 2009
  32. ^ Ubedljiv poraz mladih u Lokerenu, B92, 17 November 2004
  33. ^ a b Dejo za smenu, Srbi ne daju, Glas javnosti, 24 December 2004
  34. ^ Okuka i zvanično trener "mladih", B92, 15 March 2005
  35. ^ a b Raskol u dva fudbalska saveza?, B92, 26 December 2004
  36. ^ Kosanović: Još sam selektor, B92, 9 February 2005
  37. ^ Kosanović: Odlazim!, Večernje novosti, 8 March 2005
  38. ^ Dejo protiv "Koka- Kole", "Marlboroa" i "Suzukija";Glas javnosti, 15 May 2006
  39. ^ Neću da me ubiju zbog fudbala!?, Večernje novosti, 29 March 2006
  40. ^ a b Dejo pod istragom!, Večernje novosti, 31 March 2006
  41. ^ Sukob Savićevića i Božovića, Glas javnosti, 12 May 2006
  42. ^ a b Savićević: Neka država reši problem, B92, 5 September 2006
  43. ^ FSCG: Skupština za Savićevića, B92, 18 October 2006
  44. ^ Montenegrin newspaper Dan appeals to AIPS to help resolve football accreditation issue, 8 September 2008
  45. ^ Montenegrin newspaper DAN banned from football reporting - matter to be discussed at AIPS Congress;28 April 2009
  46. ^ UEPS demands Montenegrin Football Association accreditation for DAN journalists;4 May 2009
  47. ^ Savićević: Kranjčar nije Hitler!;Frankfurtske vesti, 7 June 2011
  48. ^ Dejo optužio podgorički Dan zbog "srpske orjentacije"!?;Kurir, 9 June 2011
  49. ^ Savićević zabranio novinaru "Dana" da prati meč sa Engleskom;Blic, 7 October 2011
  50. ^ Skandalozno!;Dan, 8 October 2011
  51. ^ "Savićević struggling in father's shadow". UEFA.com. 2008-03-12. http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=mne/news/newsid=671256.html. Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  52. ^ Savićević: "Ja sam Bog..." !, B92, 22 September 2004
  53. ^ Savićević: Policiji sam trn u oku, Pobjeda 23 September 2004
  54. ^ Dejan Savićević opet operisan!, Večernje novosti, October 11, 2005
  55. ^ Dejo opet pod nož!, Večernje novosti, 17 October 2005
  56. ^ Savićević swears in Zagreb, October 1999
  57. ^ Novak Djokovic's Official Website. Novakdjokovic.rs. Retrieved on 2011–03–09.
  58. ^ The Kuguars - "Dejo", YouTube

External links


Awards
Preceded by
Dragutin Topić
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia The Best Athlete of Yugoslavia
1991
Succeeded by
Slobodan Branković
( Yugoslavia)

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