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Rediff.com  » Sports » New Milan coach Mihajlovic out to prove his worth on big stage

New Milan coach Mihajlovic out to prove his worth on big stage

June 16, 2015 20:01 IST

Sinisa Mihajlovic looks on during the Serie A match. Photograph: Getty Images

New AC Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic is known for his hot temper and iron will and fans will hope those traits inspire rather than alienate his players as he bids to turn around the fortunes of Italy's fallen giants.

The 46-year old Serb, born to a Croat mother and a Bosnian Serb father in the Croatian town of Vukovar, was appointed on Tuesday to replace Filippo Inzaghi and faces his toughest challenge yet as coach after two good seasons at fellow Serie A side Sampdoria.

Mihajlovic guided a Sampdoria to a seventh-place finish at the end of last season after being in contention for a berth in European competition for much of the campaign.

That came on the back of a turbulent 2013-2014 season in which the Serb took over when the club were in the drop zone and saved them from relegation with a string of good results.

Inter Milan's Sinisa Mihajlovic celebrates his goal with teammate Cristiano Zanetti during an Italian Serie A match in 2004. Photograph: New Press/Getty Images

Mihajlovic has a wealth of experience in Italian football, having spent 14 years at Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter Milan as a player after winning the European Cup with Red Star Belgrade in 1991.

Having moved to Roma in 1992 as a left-sided midfielder, Mihajlovic flourished as a central defender at each of his three subsequent clubs and was also known for a lethal left foot from set pieces.

He first caught the eye at his original club Vojvodina Novi Sad, where he was the driving force in winning the former Yugoslavia league title in 1989 against more heralded Belgrade rivals Red Star and Partizan as well as Croatian big guns Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split.

Two successive league titles with Red Star coupled with the 1991 feat in Europe’s premier club competition earned Mihajlovic a high-profile move to Italy but he struggled in his two year-spell at Roma.

The silverware returned at Lazio, where he won a league title, two cups and the now-defunct UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup before capping his playing career with another Serie A title at Inter in 2006.

Having scored 10 goals in 63 appearances for the former Yugoslavia, Mihajlovic first worked as Roberto Mancini’s assistant at Inter before successive one-year spells in charge at Bologna, Catania and Fiorentina.

The low point of his coaching career came when he took over the Serbian national team in 2012 but failed to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after a qualifying campaign dogged by rifts with players and an acrimonious relationship with the media.

Sampdoria head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic looks on during a Serie A match in Genoa. Photograph: Getty Images

Mihajlovic axed Adem Ljajic from the squad after the gifted forward, a Slav Muslim from Serbia's ethnically mixed southern region of Sandzak, refused to sing the national anthem ahead of a friendly against Spain in May 2012.

With fans divided on his iron-fist policies, Mihajlovic was blasted by Serbian media and lost the hearts of supporters after tactical blunders in a 3-0 home mauling by Belgium followed by a 1-0 reverse in Macedonia and a telling 2-0 defeat at Balkan foes Croatia.

Although asked to carry on by Serbian FA Chief Tomislav Karadzic, also under fire from Serbian fans, Mihajlovic left for greener and more familiar pastures in Italy and instantly resuscitated his career at Sampdoria.

With Milan fans and club owners seemingly having an equally short fuse as the club struggle to rekindle past glory, Mihajlovic could not have asked for a tougher scrutiny of his credentials when he took over at the winners of seven titles in Europe's elite club competition.

He is likely to turn things round, quickly, however, if he is to avoid becoming following Inzaghi, Massimiliano Allegri and Clarence Seedorf, all of whom have been shown the door in the last 18 months.

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