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Predrag "Peđa" Mijatović (Montenegrin: Предраг Мијатовић - Пеђа) (born 19 January 1969 in Titogradmarker, Yugoslavia) is a former Montenegrinmarker football player and former sports director of Real Madrid. He is considered one of Yugoslavia's best players of the 1990s. During his career his position on the pitch was striker but was very often deployed, especially later in his career, as a midfield creator.

On the club level, Mijatović played for 6 different clubs: Budućnost Podgorica, FK Partizan, Valencia, Real Madrid, Fiorentina, and Levante. Internationally, Mijatović has been capped 73 times, scoring 28 goals (the appearances are split between the SFR Yugoslavia and the FR Yugoslavia national teams). He played in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

A very technically gifted player known for his outstanding skill and vision, as well as his prolific goalscoring ability, Mijatović is well remembered for scoring a goal for Real Madrid in the 1998 UEFA Champions League Final that brought the biggest European title back to Madrid after 32 years. He also had many memorable moments on the big stage, at both club and international levels.

In the 1995/1996 Primera División season, he scored 28 goals for Valencia, which in turn led him to controversially move to Real Madrid.

Club career

FK Partizan

Though he scored on his Partizan debut against his former club FK Budućnost, Mijatović's debut half season in the new club was mostly spent settling into the new surroundings as he failed to score in the following 14 league appearances until the end of the season.

The next league campaign (his first full season at Partizan) provided a bit of breakthrough as he became a prominent team member with 14 goals in 33 league appearances. However, their failure to win any silverware combined with Red Star Belgrade's rampage through Yugoslav League and Europe meant that the entire Partizan team was in constant shadow of their crosstown rivals.

For his part, Mijatović continued improving, becoming the squad's undisputed leader during 1991/92 season under head coach Ivica Osim, and leading Partizan to the 1992 Yugoslav Cup title over reigning European Cup champions Red Star. He also picked up the Yugoslav Footballer of the Year award along the way.

Before the start of the 1992/93 season SFR Yugoslaviamarker disintegrated meaning that the new Yugoslav League consisted of teams from Serbiamarker and Montenegromarker only. Mijatović put in another impressive season, helping Partizan finally overcome their Red Star jinx, and leading them to the Yugoslav title.

Ever since he established himself at Partizan, Mijatović had been linked with various top European sides - Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Juventus, among others. However, none of them expressed sufficient interest and he eventually ended up at Valencia CF in the summer of 1993. Then Real president Ramón Mendoza later admitted that Robert Prosinečki's failure to live up to expectations in Madrid made his club wary of young Yugoslavs.[110829]

Valencia

Mijatović made his La Liga debut on 5 September 1993 against Real Oviedo and immediately became an integral part of coach Guus Hiddink's squad. He would go on to make 35 league appearances and score 16 goals in his debut season.

After steady progression he got the Spanish Footballer of the Year honours in the 1995/96 season in which he led Valencia to second place in La Liga with 28 goals in 40 league matches - a truly impressive tally considering he was often deployed as a midfield creator.

The glowing performance didn't go unnoticed by Spanish giants Real Madrid who, now under new club president Lorenzo Sanz, started courting Mijatović again after failing to commit to him three years earlier.

Real Madrid

Mijatović finally arrived at the Spanish capital as a highly touted 27-year-old during the 1996 summer transfer window. At Real, playing in a slightly withdrawn forward/playmaker role, Mijatović linked up with Davor Šuker (another fresh arrival from Sevilla) and Raúl to form a formidable trio upfront. Under manager Fabio Capello, Šuker and Mijatović both featured in 38 league matches during title-winning 1996/97 season, with Šuker scoring 24, and Mijatović 14 goals while also laying on many others. Nineteen-year-old Raúl played in each one of 42 league matches, scoring 21 goals.

Though the following, 1997/98 season at Real wasn't quite as successful for Mijatović from a personal standpoint, it still provided many memorable moments. Despite injuries and somewhat inconsistent form, he still managed 10 goals in 24 league games, linking up well with emerging 21-year-old forward Fernando Morientes who arrived from Real Zaragoza at the beginning of the season and all but squeezed Šuker out of the squad by the end of it. And even though FC Barcelona led by, among others, Sonny Anderson, Luís Figo, and Luís Enrique beat them to the league title, the season was still deemed a success since the elusive European trophy was finally back at the Bernabéumarker after a 32-year wait. Real beat Juventus in May 1998 in Amsterdammarker's ArenAmarker with Mijatović scoring the only goal - incidentally his first of that season's Champions League.

However, after being on top of the world in May, Mijatović came back to Real Madrid in August with lukewarm feelings due to his poor showing at the 1998 World Cup. The following 1998/99 season turned out to be his last with the royal club. Despite winning the Champions League trophy, coach Jupp Heynckes' contract was not extended. The new coaching set-up employed by first José Antonio Camacho and subsequently Guus Hiddink often used Mijatović out of position on the wing, while Raúl and Morientes were the preferred attacking duo most of the time. Though at moments he displayed his old brilliance, Mijatović's performance was much too streaky and inconsistent for a club of Real's stature. Even when Hiddink got fired mid-season, it still didn't spell the start of better days for Mijatović, as he openly feuded with new coach John Toshack. After going out in Champions League quarterfinals to a Shevchenko-led Dynamo Kyiv (incidentally, 2 matches where Mijatović played some excellent football) and failing to win the league for the second season in a row, changes were clearly in order especially knowing the triggerhappy nature of the Real brass. They were getting ready to clear the space upfront for the promising 20-year-old Nicolas Anelka from Arsenal to be brought in. The management decided that the best days of now 30-year-old Mijatović were behind him and sold him to Fiorentina at the end of the season.

Fiorentina

In Florencemarker Mijatović played under coach Giovanni Trapattoni and Fatih Terim, with Gabriel Batistuta and Enrico Chiesa providing competition for places upfront. Fortunately for all three, Trapattoni favoured an attacking formation that season, allowing each forward his share of playing time. This also meant Mijatović dropped further into midfield which was a role he adapted to quickly.

National team

Mijatović began his career in the youth categories of the former Yugoslavia team. He was included in the squad for the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship with Croatian Davor Šuker and fellow Montenegrin Branko Brnović. "Peda" scored 2 goals as Yugoslavia won the title.

Simultaneously with Mijatović's transfer from Valencia CF to Real Madrid, Yugoslavia returned to playing competitive matches after a 4 year ban due to the UN embargo. Naturally, Mijatović, by this time a bona fide European football star, played a prominent role for Yugoslavia as well. Playing in the pure attacking role for his country, he was seemingly scoring at will. In late 1997, during the 2-game World Cup playoff qualifiers against Hungary, he notched 7 goals (hat-trick in the first leg in Budapestmarker and 4 goals in the return home leg at the Marakanamarker). Yugoslavia demolished their opposition 12-1 on aggregate and qualified for the 1998 World Cup in France.

World Cup 1998

The expectations in France 98 were undoubtedly substantial. In many circles Yugoslavia was considered to be the tournament's dark horse as a team full of players with prominent roles in top European clubs. Now 29 years of age, Mijatović was in the prime of his career and also heading into the tournament on a high from his Champions League final success. Furthermore, with 14 qualifying campaign goals to his name, he was expected to provide most of the scoring punch. He himself beamed with confidence, even cautiously suggesting Yugoslavia will go far in the tournament.

However, he performed well below expectations, managing to score only one goal in 4 matches - a fluky effort during a group phase match against Germany that was awarded to him only after further video examination because at first it seemed like Dejan Stanković provided the final touch to put the ball in the net. To compound his subpar performance, Mijatović slammed a crucial penalty against the crossbar in the round-of-16 elimination game against the Netherlands that Yugoslavia subsequently lost to an injury time goal by Edgar Davids.

Road to Euro 2000

At the start of the next qualifying cycle for Euro 2000, Mijatović continued to be an automatic choice for Yugoslavia under new coach Milan Živadinović. The same continued when Vujadin Boškov took over in Živadinović's place midway through the qualifying. For his part, Mijatović responded with some solid outings. Replicating scoring form from World Cup 98 qualifying proved elusive, but he still found ways to be useful with a few key assists and overall buildup play.

The deciding match occurred in October 1999 versus Croatia and in highly charged atmosphere Mijatović came through with a shining moment, scoring an acrobatic first half header to level the score at 1-1. The eventual 2-2 final meant Yugoslavia qualified directly for the European Championships in Belgium and Holland.

Euro 2000

Heading into the final tournament, Mijatović, now 31 years old and with just solid club form at Fiorentina, was free of pressure and big personal expectations that followed him during World Cup two years earlier. He still played all four of Yugoslavia's matches, though in a more withdrawn position since suddenly emergent Savo Milošević established himself as the target man up front. Mijatović failed to score in all four games and had a fairly low-key tournament altogether.

Post-football

After retiring in 2004, Mijatović continued living in Valencia and soon became a player agent.

In June 2006, he hooked up with Ramón Calderón as part of his candidate bid for the position of Real Madrid president. When Calderón won the closely contested club election on 2 July 2006, Mijatović became Real's new Director of Football.

On January 16, 2009, Calderón resigned his post and by mid February reports appeared that Mijatović's is on his way out as well. Though he continued at his post under new interim president Vicente Boluda, it soon became clear that it's just a matter of time before Mijatović leaves. On May 20 2009, Real Madrid announced Mijatović's departure.

In the end, Calderón and Mijatović leave a mixed legacy of their time heading Real's front office. On one hand they presided over two La Liga titles, but are more remembered for failing to sign a number of high profile players they promised to bring in such as Cesc Fàbregas, Kaká, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Personal

Mijatović's personal life has been well-publicized due to his turbulent relationship with Belgrade socialite Elena Karaman. They were married for 1½ years during the early 1990s, and had two sons before divorcing. During the divorce proceedings, he often wore a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap with the initials "L.A.", dedicated to their sons Luka and Andreja. On the 3rd of June 2009, the official website of Real Madrid stated that Andreja, aged 15, passed away after a long illness, and offered its "deepest sympathies on behalf of the entire club and its members".

In the years following his divorce, Mijatović got remarried to Serbian fashion model Aneta Milićević. The couple has three daughters: Nađa (born 1999), Nina, and Lola.

References

  1. Mijatovic scores on his Partizan debut in February 1990
  2. Sporting Director Predrag Mijatovic Ready To Leave Real Madrid – Reports, Goal.com, February 14, 2009
  3. http://www.realmadrid.com/cs/Satellite/en/1202773280340/noticia/Noticia/Sincere_condolences.htm


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