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Slaven Bilić ( ; born 11 September 1968 in Splitmarker, Croatiamarker, then Yugoslavia) is a former Croatian football and current head coach of the Croatia national team. His playing tenure predominantly comprised extended vocations in his hometown with Hajduk Split and a combination of foreign spells in Germanymarker and Englandmarker. At national level, Bilić served as one of Croatia's most consistent defenders, primarily focused around his presence in the 1998 FIFA World Cup foray.

On 30 April 2008, Bilić agreed to extend his contract for a further two years. The new deal is worth 1.2 million kuna ($340,000) a year and will take the former Croatia defender up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa. The National Team coach rankings has long recognised Bilić as the second best national team manager in the world, behind Dunga of Brazilmarker.Being the youngest manager Croatia has ever had, he also became the youngest manager to lead his side to the knockout stages of a major competition. He did this at UEFA Euro 2008.

Playing career

Early years

Bilić began his career at his hometown club Hajduk Split, whom he joined at the age of nine. He rose through the youth ranks at Hajduk and as part of his football schooling he was loaned out to lower level sides Primorac and Šibenik. First he spent a half-season at Primorac in 1988 and then a season and a half at Šibenik, who were at the time one of the top teams in the Yugoslav Second League. Bilić played there as a centre-back and went on to score 7 goals in 33 appearances. Yugoslav regulations allowed for a player to be dually registered (and eligible to play for both clubs) so players would normally play most of the season at smaller clubs where they were loaned to, but were at the same time allowed a maximum of five appearances for the club they were loaned from during a season. Hajduk manager Petar Nadoveza used this rule and called him up from Šibenik for three matches in the 1988–89 season. He appeared in away games against Vardar, Radnički Niš and Velež, where he scored two goals and was named man of the match in all three appearances.

His performances attracted a lot of attention and other clubs of the Yugoslav big four (Dinamo Zagreb, Crvena Zvezda and Partizan) all expressed interest in bringing him in, but to no effect. He was returned from loan and immediately joined Hajduk's squad for the next season where he quickly established himself as a first-team regular. During the next few years at Hajduk he shared the dressing room with some of the most prominent Hajduk players of that time (such as Ivan Pudar, Jerko Tipurić, Branko Karačić, Nenad Gračan and Bernard Barnjak), as well as other promising young players who would later go on to have successful careers (such as Alen Bokšić, Goran Vučević, Joško Jeličić and Robert Jarni).

Moving abroad

After having spent six seasons with Hajduk, Bilić moved abroad to the Bundesliga side Karlsruher SC in a £750,000 deal in 1993. His performances earned him much praise very early on and he soon became the club's captain (the first ever foreign player to be named club captain in Bundesliga history). After reaching the semi-final of the 1993–94 UEFA Cup with Karlsruhe, he was voted the best centre-back in the Bundesliga. In January 1996 Harry Redknapp, manager of the English Premier League side West Ham United, brought him to the club for a fee of £1.3 million, setting the club's record for highest fee paid for an incoming player.

His form for the Hammers saw him selected for the Croatian national team for the UEFA Euro 1996 held in England. He shone on the international stage as Croatia made their way to the quarterfinals of the tournament where they were beaten by eventual winners Germany.

His displays in the tournament led to Joe Royle brokering a £4.5M move to Everton in March 1997, but Bilić claimed he had a debt of loyalty to West Ham that saw him stay with the club until the end of the season to ensure they were not relegated. He turned out for Everton in August 1997, after assuring himself of new manager Howard Kendall's full support, he initially brought some class to Toffee's backline but his season was marred by bookings that saw him miss several games through suspension.

It looked like his Everton career was over but he went into the 1998 FIFA World Cup with Croatia and the team were the surprise package of the tournament, reaching the semi-finals, where they were beaten by hosts France. Croatia finished in third place after winning the playoff game.

Bilić was involved in controversy during the tournament for the role he played in the dismissal of Laurent Blanc in the semi-final with France. With Croatia behind, a free kick was awarded which saw Slaven marking the French defender. Bilić held Blanc and to free himself, Blanc pushed Bilić, making contact with his chin and chest. Bilić fell to the ground clutching his forehead. Bilić later admitted that he was acting, and went down only after encouragement from teammate Igor Stimac. Blanc was sent off and missed the World Cup final through suspension. Bilić apologized to Blanc after the game.

After his exertions in the World Cup, Bilić revealed a nagging groin strain that required rest and treatment, which he took back home in Croatia. After missing the first quarter of the season, Bilić was left wondering if he would get back into the Everton side managed by Walter Smith. He did so and showed some good form but could never fully establish himself due to injuries and suspensions.

Everton decided to cut their losses on Bilić in July 1999, leaving him free to choose a new club but unwanted in England. He continued to play only for Croatia on a £27,000-a-week contract with Everton, while living in Zagrebmarker. The club eventually agreed to give Bilić a million-pound payoff, representing around half of the balance remaining on his lucrative contract which still had 28 months to run. Just two days later, Bilić signed up with his home club Hajduk Split where he briefly played until retiring.

International goals

# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
01. 8 October 1996 Stadio Renato Dall'Aramarker, Bolognamarker, Italymarker
0 − 1
1 − 4
World Cup 1998 Qualifying
02. 6 September 1997 Maksimir Stadiummarker, Zagrebmarker, Croatiamarker
1 − 1
3 − 2
World Cup 1998 Qualifying
03. 29 October 1997 Maksimir Stadiummarker, Zagrebmarker, Croatiamarker
1 − 0
2 − 0
World Cup 1998 Qualifying


Honours

Hajduk Split



Croatia



Managing career

Early days

Slaven Bilić, together with Aljoša Asanović, managed the Croatian U-21 team for several years during the qualification rounds for the U-21 European championship of 2006. Their team went through the group stage but lost in playoff to Serbia and Montenegro.

As a shareholder in his hometown club, Hajduk Split, he temporarily agreed to manage them for five games until the club found a replacement manager. Having admitted that the adrenaline inspired him, he reportedly received guidance after traveling Europe and visiting Arsène Wenger and Marcello Lippi.

Croatia

Bilić was appointed head coach of the main national team on 25 July 2006, succeeding Zlatko Kranjčar after the unsuccessful 2006 World Cup. His assistants included former teammates Aljoša Asanović, Robert Prosinečki, Nikola Jurčević, and Marijan Mrmić. One of his first actions in charge of the squad for Slaven Bilić was the promotion of three players from the U-21 squad, who were Eduardo da Silva, Luka Modrić, and Vedran Ćorluka, who would all eventually enjoy impressive success and make transfers to the English Premier League. The team's first official game under Bilić was the 2-0 friendly win in Livornomarker against Italy, while Bilić's first competitive game was the 0-0 draw in Moscowmarker against Russia in the opener for their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. Many criticized this result due to Bilić's suspension of Dario Srna, Ivica Olić and Boško Balaban who were caught skipping training and therefore temporarily cut from the squad.

Further in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, he led Croatia to a very successful campaign in a group consisting of England, Russia, Israel, Macedonia, Estonia, and Andorra. Bilić managed to lead Croatia to a first place finish in Group E, most notably masterminding home and away victories against England, who consequently didn't qualify and sacked their then-manager Steve McClaren. It became England's first ever loss at the new Wembley Stadiummarker. After the match, Bilić largely criticised England's perspective and consideration of the sport, stating they have not shown progress of expanding for their future by raising their younger youth players, and that they simply did not show the determination to win. Croatia also managed to equal their highest ever win record as they beat Andorra 7-0.

At the Euro 2008 tournament itself, where he was the youngest coach, Slaven and the rest of his squad had to participate with a "handicap" as they were without their star striker Eduardo, who sustained a serious injury a few months earlier. Nonetheless, Bilić led his side to an outstanding achievement as they won all three group stage games of the competition, taking maximum points in the group for the first time in their history, which included an impressive 2-1 victory over eventual finalists Germany. Even his sides second string reserve side was seen to be too strong for their final group opponents Poland, who they beat 1-0 due to an Ivan Klasnić goal.

Croatia soon became labeled as favorites for the tournament, but they would soon suffer an exit in the quarter finals against Turkey. Though he admitted that the defeat would haunt him and his squad for the rest of their lives, and having revealed thoughts of possible resignation, he eventually pledged to stay on with Croatia and stated that they would return bigger and stronger after the alarming defeat.

Croatia started their qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as favourites to top Group 6 after a promising show at Euro 2008. Their group contained England, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Andorra. Croatia failed to qualify after finishing third, but Bilić has decided to stay with the team for at least two more years.

Managerial statistics

Team From To Record
Pld W D L Win %
Hajduk Split 21 November 2001 4 May 2002 17 11 4 2 64.70
Croatia U-21 18 August 2004 1 August 2006 18 10 2 6 55.55
Croatia 1 August 2006 Present 35 24 7 4 68.57


Management style

Bilić has said in a post tournament interview that he and his players compiled and studied many games of their opponents to become very well prepared for tough matches.

Known to be a big fan of music, Bilić relates his teams motivation to such, often encouraging them to listen to inspiring music before and after games. He went on to state "I cannot do my job without music, I need it to relax"

Quotes

  • "Wake up! You did not score your two goals because you had two strikers up front, we were simply the better team." (During his post match interview after Croatia beat England 3-2 at Wembley)."
  • "Only Kaká is better than Modrić.
  • "With the greatest respect to women, football is the most beautiful thing in the world."
  • "I don't think it is an advantage to play against Austria first. I would much rather have played against San Marino first, with the greatest respect to them for not qualifying."
  • "Look at our qualifying record." (When Croatia's future success was doubted).
  • "You don't defeat Germany with anything else besides hard work." (Post match interview after Croatia 2-1 Germany).


Personal life

Along with his native Croatian, Bilić is fluent in German, Italian, and English, while he also holds a degree in law. As big fan of rock music, he plays rhythm guitar with his favored red Gibson Explorer in his own Croatian rock group, Rawbau. In 2008, the band recorded a song for Croatia's performance at Euro 2008 called "Vatreno Ludilo" ("Fiery Madness"), which soon became a #1 hit.

References

  1. And the Best Coach in the World is… - World Cup Blog - Euro 2008
  2. Fire in Bilic burns bright | Football | The Observer
  3. The Hindu : Sport / Football : Klasnic caps a remarkable comeback
  4. 'This will haunt us for the rest of our lives,' weeps devastated lionheart Bilic - Soccer, Sport - Independent.ie
  5. Slaven Bilic: Encouraging my players is my way of doing things - News & Comment, Football - The Independent
  6. Coach Bilic rocks Croatian team with pastime revelation - Football - Sport
  7. Croatian Euro 2008 success could spark Premier League chase for Slaven Bilic - Telegraph
  8. tribalfootball.com - Bilic: Only Kaka better than Tottenham's Modric
  9. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2008/06/16/sfncro116.xml
  10. Slaven Bilic: Croatia are winners . . go ask England - mirror.co.uk
  11. Slaven Bilic: Croatia are winners . . go ask England
  12. UEFA EURO 2008 - Slaven Bilic Profile


External links




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