Miljan Miljanić, Serbian footballer, coach and administrator, died he was 81
(Serbian Cyrillic: Миљан Миљанић; 4 May 1930 – 13 January 2012)
Born in Bitola, Vardar Banovina, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, to a family originating from the Banjani clan in the Nikšić municipality in Montenegro, Miljanić spent the first years of his life in what would later become the SR Macedonia within SFR Yugoslavia and eventually present day Republic of Macedonia.
During his colourful career, Miljanić coached Red Star Belgrade (won 10 trophies), Real Madrid (won back-to-back La Liga titles, including a League/Cup double in the 1974/1975 season), Valencia CF
(disappointing stint that lasted three quarters of the 1982/83 season
when he got sacked with the team in 17th place in the league), and the Yugoslav national side, of which he was a head coach in the 1974 and 1982 World Cups.
He is equally known as the all-powerful president of the Football Association of FR Yugoslavia
(FSJ), a post he occupied for years before leaving in 2001. His
influence on the game of football in Yugoslavia is huge as an entire
generation of coaches including Ćiro Blažević, Ivica Osim, Toza Veselinović,
etc. came up under his tutelage. In addition to admirers, Miljanić has
his share of detractors who feel his trademark cautious and defensive
tactics as well as reliance on older players contributed to the Yugoslav
national team’s poor results and unattractive play throughout the 1970s
Losing to Johan Cruijff‘s FC Barcelona 0-5 at home at the Bernabéu in February 1974 El Clásico, followed by finishing the league season in eight place spelled the end of Luis Molowny‘s short tenure as Real Madrid’s head coach. The season marked the end of an era for the club as longtime head coach Miguel Muñoz got sacked mid-season. Club’s iconic president Santiago Bernabéu Yeste
felt it was time for major change, signing Miljan Miljanić as the new
head coach of Real Madrid on 5 July 1974. The Serb’s only condition was
that he be allowed to bring along compatriot Srećko “Felix” Radišić as
fitness coach. Radišić thus became the first fitness coach in club’s
history. Others in Miljanić’s coaching staff were club-assigned goalkeeping coach Juan Santisteban and assistant coach Antonio Ruiz.
Miljanić initiated many innovative changes in the training methods at
Real. Insisting on top physical and tactical preparation, he increased
the number of daily training sessions from one to three, which initially
cause an outrage.
He insisted on players not having more than two touches on the ball,
and had them perfect the long pass game with the entire team functioning
as a precise mechanism. He also moved Pirri from his midfield role into the sweeper defensive role while the offensive movement usually converged with crosses for target forwards Santillana and new signing from Espanyol Roberto Martínez. Furthermore, Miljanić had at his disposal goalkeeper Miguel Ángel, defensive midfielder Vicente del Bosque, veteran right winger Amancio Amaro, German midfielder Günter Netzer, newly signed defenceman from Bayern Paul Breitner, and young defender from the youth system José Antonio Camacho.
Despite facing fan criticism over unattractive play, Real won the
league and cup double in his first season as coach while in the Cup Winners’ Cup
they got eliminated at the quarterfinal stage on penalties by
Miljanić’s former team Red Star Belgrade. The tie took place over two
legs in March 1975, and Miljanić somewhat controversially decided not to
travel to Belgrade for the return leg because he couldn’t bear to lead
the team against his former side, saying: “I can not betray my heart”.
Instead, he invited journalists to watch the game with him on
television in Madrid. Going into the return leg Real had the 2-0 lead
from the first leg, but led by Antonio Ruiz who stepped in for Miljanić
that night, los merenegues lost 2-0 in Belgrade and then got eliminated in the penalty shootout.
After ending the 1976-77 season without silverware, Miljanić started
his fourth campaign as Real’s coach in September 1977. However, after
losing the opening match of the league season to Salamanca 1-2, Miljanić
resigned his post.
Miljanić was married to Olivera Reljić with whom he had two children: son Miloš Miljanić (former footballer and current manager of Alianza F.C. of El Salvador) and daughter Zorka.
He died on 13 January 2012, aged 81, in Belgrade, Serbia
after suffering from the Alzheimer’s disease for several years.
Mourning the loss of the club’s former great, on 14 January, Real Madrid
side coached by José Mourinho played their away league match at Real Mallorca with Madrid players wearing black armbands.
Honours and awards
- Red Star Belgrade
- Yugoslav Cup (3): 1967–68, 1969–70, 1970–71
- Iberico Trophy Badajoz (1): 1971
- Orange Trophy (1): 1973
- Trofeo Costa del Sol (1): 1973
- Real Madrid
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