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Photo by U.C. Sampdoria Facebook page
Siniša Mihajlović, the Balkan gipsy with a frightening left foot
After a glorious career in Serie A with Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter the Serbian is back to Italy to coach Samp
by Leonardo Cavezza
Since Sampdoria hired Siniša Mihajlović as their new coach, the blucerchiati obtained 8 points out of 12. The “Siniša therapy” is giving immediate results. A good premonition for a man who seems to follow the pursuit of another ex-Jugoslavian, “trainer for every latitude”, Vujadin Boškov.

In an interview of 2006, he defined himself as a zingaro (gipsy) while talking about Adrian Mutu: for opponent fans, this expression was used with malice, but for Siniša it represented the idea of a man without roots, ready to try new experiences without fear. And with a proud Slavic temperament.

This strong link with Mother Serbia often created problems to him: he was accused of racism, of solidarity with Serbian criminals Arkan and Željko Ražnatović (he declared himself only a friend of Red Star Ultras). He fully lived the Civil war in the Balkans and this aspect obviously had an impact on his career as a footballer. It wouldn’t have made sense otherwise.

He arrived to Italy in the summer of 1992, after the surprising success in the European Cup (current Champions League) and Intercontinental Cup with Red Star of Belgrade, a team full of future Serie A players (Vladimir Jugovic, Darko Pancev, Dejan Savicevic).

The first approach with our Serie A, in Roma, was difficult. For a whole season, his role was a sort of mystery (he often played as a left back with bad results) . His only pearl was a goal against Borussia Dortmund in UEFA Cup, that showed the great precision of Siniša’s feet.


So, at the end of the season came the transfer to Sampdoria. The trainer, Sven Goran Eriksson, moved him to the middle of the defense (as sweeper or “libero”) to exploit Siniša’s vision and long balls to the strikers and his aggressiveness in the penalty area. He was a sort of nightmare for opponent attackers, and not only.

His favorite victims were, in fact, the goalkeepers, who lived every match fearing one of his deadly free kicks. He was one of the world specialists, a “sniper”. Many legends circulated about his kicks, the most famous being that his father was obliged to change the garage door every 2 or 3 months, broken by the shots of the young Siniša. His free-kicks were also studied by University of Belgrade for speed and ballistic trajectories.

In 1998 Eriksson wanted Mihajlović with him at Lazio. In the first game against his previous team- Sampdoria-, Siniša had the “perfect match of free kicks”. The Serbian star scored 3 goals with perfect executions.


His second experience in Rome was full of satisfactions: he won the last edition of the Uefa Cup Winners' Cup (1999), the Scudetto (2000) and the European Super Cup (1999). He also managed to score 8 goals in one season (1998-99). Rome was an important city also for his private life: his wife, that gave him 5 children, comes from the eternal city.

The last part of his career was with Inter's jersey, just to add a few more trophies to his showcase: another Scudetto (2006) and a two Italian Cup (2005/2006). His career as a trainer was difficult, and often full of conflict with journalists, footballers, presidents. After two years as an assistant coach to  Roberto Mancini at Inter, he started on the bench of Bologna in the 2008-2009 season but he lasted only 21games before being sacked. Then he flew to Sicily to lead Catania: Siniša took Gianluca Atzori's seat but at the end of the season (and a 13th place) he decided to resign. 

Then the Serbian signed for Fiorentina. He had the difficult task of succeeding to Cesare Prandelli but the results were quite disappointing: 9th place in the first season, a layoff in the second after 10 games and 3 wins only. Mihajlovic tried with the Serbian national team, a position he just left after having missed the qualification for the 2014 World Cup.

Now, a new occasion to start again with his old team, Sampdoria.

In these days, during one of the first interviews, he declared: “I have lost many battles in life, but not the war”. Strong words, Siniša, maybe too strong. The Sampdoria supporters only ask for a pacific season far from Serie B zone.

Tuesday, December 17 th, 2013
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