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Mister Mihajlovic


Never say never, that is the first lesson Mihajlovic learned after being asked to coach AC Milan. Fans were very quick to remember his promise that he would “never” coach Milan. And yet when the opportunity arose, he jumped on it, a decision that may just prove to be mutually beneficial. After seven years of experience as a head coach and two years as an assistant coach, it seems the perfect time to take the reins of a club like Milan. And for Milan, he may just be the perfect coach to steer us out of this mess. It is with a surprising amount of optimism that I welcome Sinisa Mihajlovic to Milan.

He's played and coached for club and country, can he bring Milan back to greatness?

Mihajlovic has always courted controversy, and has always been both loved and hated. Born to a Serbian father and Croatian mother in what is now Croatia, he still feels like Croatia is his country, but identifies more with Serbia. In fact his Serbian nationalism has gotten him into controversy more than once. But it also saved his family. During the Croatian war, his ties to a Serbian war criminal who was also leader of the Ultras at Red Star Belgrade actually saved first his uncle’s life and then his parents, too.

As a player, he was also both loved and hated. He was loved for his amazing free kicks, and hated for his very physical tackles. He holds the title for the most goals scored from free kicks in Serie A, having scored 28 goals from free kicks in 14 years. That includes a free kick hat trick he once scored at Lazio. In comparison, it took Pirlo 19 years to catch him and tie this record. He is included in nearly everyone’s top five free kick takers of all times, often at or near the top of that prestigious list. But Mihajlovic was often loathed for his crunching tackles, and for some on the pitch and off the pitch words, kicking, spitting, and more. Let’s just say he was no stranger to getting sent off.

Whether it was for club or especially for country, he's never been one to back down

His coaching career is not without controversy either, but he does seem to have “matured” and seems to be becoming more loved than hated. He started out under the tutelage of his friend Roberto Mancini at Inter, where he was his assistant coach for two years upon retiring as a player. He left Inter when Mancini was sacked. It is his time with Inter both as a player and an assistant coach that makes Milan fans cringe, in addition to his later statement about never coaching Milan. However, his coaching career was only just beginning, and has become less and less controversial.

From Inter, he went to Bologna, where he coached from November to April. Rumors place his failure there on disagreements with high profile players. His next job was Catania. He took over the club in December when they were dead last, and helped them finish an impressive 13th place, but still he resigned at the end of the season.

It's all smiles and hugs until someone doesn't sing the national anthem

You may well remember his time at Fiorentina, as he struggled like most coaches do at the club these days. His record was affected by lengthy injuries to key players and more, yet still they finished 9th under him in the 2010-11 season. But he only lasted to November of the following season, with the “classy” Fiorentina fans abusing him for his ethnicity and more during his final matches. Ironically, after Fiorentina, he was appointed coach of the Serbian national team. He made waves there by enforcing his code of discipline and dropping Adem Ljajic for his refusal to sing the Serbian national anthem.

In November of 2013, he took over the reins of a struggling Sampdoria, a club he had also played for. Bringing in his longtime friend Nenad Sakic as his assistant, who had also played for Sampdoria, they finished 12th, able to easily steer clear of relegation, the primary goal of the club that season. Staying on for the 2014-15 season, he also navigated the waters of transition as the Garrone family sold the club to the entertaining Massimo Ferrero. He also expanded his tactical abilities by playing multiple systems, amongst other things. And this past season, of course, Sampdoria did very well under Mihajlovic, finishing in 7th place, which, thanks to Genoa, puts them into qualification for the Europa League.

Preparation for Silvio's coaching "suggestions"

As we talked about on the last podcast, it is his growth as a coach that gives me hope, learning when to take a stand and when not to. Learning how to manage players of all kinds, but also how to get the best out of them. Dealing with different kinds of owners and others at the club level. It definitely seems like he is on the way up, and with nine years of experience, most of it in Serie A, he is poised to do great things. I certainly look forward to his “friendly” competition with Mancini, I hope that the student is able to master the teacher in both derbies this year, if not also in the league standings.

But it is more than just his collective experiences in life, as a player, and coaching the different teams so far. He has a stubbornness and determination that he makes work for him. He has come full circle from being considered a bit of a loose cannon to being a very disciplined and demanding coach. Plus with his past, he will have much to prove at Milan to win over the fans. I personally think he is the perfect type of coach for Milan at this time, and I truly hope he proves me right. Certainly we should never say never. Benvenuto, Mister Mihajlovic!


This post inspired by the music of Muse’s “Aftermath”