Siniša Mihajlović (Serbian Cyrillic: Синиша Михајловић, pronounced [sǐniʃa mixǎːjloʋitɕ]; born 20 February 1969) is a Serbian professional football manager and former footballer, who is the manager of Serie A club Bologna.
Mihajlović coaching Fiorentina in 2010
|Full name||Siniša Mihajlović|
|Date of birth||20 February 1969|
|Place of birth||Vukovar, SFR Yugoslavia|
|Height||1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)|
|1990–1992||Red Star Belgrade||38||(9)|
|1991–2003||FR Yugoslavia[nb 1]||63||(10)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
During his career as a footballer, he played as a defender or midfielder. He has 63 caps and scored 10 goals for Yugoslavia from 1991 to 2003, of which his first four caps in 1991 represented SFR Yugoslavia, and played in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2000 tournaments. Considered by many to be among the best free kick takers of all time,[a] he co-holds the all-time record in Serie A for most goals from free-kicks, alongside Andrea Pirlo, with 28 goals. He was the coach of the Serbia national football team from May 2012 to November 2013, and holds an Italian passport.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Club career
- 3 Style of play
- 4 Managerial career
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Career statistics
- 7 Controversies
- 8 Managerial statistics
- 9 Honours
- 10 Annotations
- 11 Footnotes
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Mihajlović was born in Vukovar, SFR Yugoslavia. He was raised in Borovo Naselje, into a working-class family of a Serb father from Bosnia, and a Croat mother. He himself identifies as Serb, but has said that he views Croatia as his country as well. His father Bogdan (d. 2011) was a truck driver, while his mother Viktorija was a shoe factory worker. He has a younger brother, Dražen (b. 1973).
Mihajlović was part of the golden generation of Yugoslav players who won the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship in Chile, but was not selected in the team that head coach Mirko Jozić took to the tournament. During the Croatian War, his home was destroyed by Croatian forces, among whom was his best childhood friend, an ethnic Croat, forcing his parents to flee. His maternal uncle called his mother and said that she should stay in Borovo, while her husband, Siniša's father, was to be killed. When the Serbian Volunteer Guard took over Borovo they captured the uncle, and found Siniša's number in his address book; Siniša was called and asked if they were relatives – he had him saved. In a 2016 interview Mihajlović said he had forgiven his childhood friend in a meeting in Zagreb prior to the crucial Euro 2000 qualification match between FR Yugoslavia and Croatia.
Mihajlović started playing organized football with NK Borovo, a lower-rank club from his hometown. He quickly marked himself out as a talented youngster, appearing at Yugoslav inter-republic youth tournaments where he represented SR Croatia.
In 1986, he got transferred to NK Borovo's first team. Playing in the SR Croatia's republic league (third tier of Yugoslav football), his first team debut took place on 25 May 1986 in Beli Manastir versus Šparta Beli Manastir. The match ended 1–1 with Mihajlović scoring a goal. The 17-year-old also got his first taste of professionalism with his first monthly salary being CHF500.
All throughout Mihajlović's time with Borovo, bigger Yugoslav clubs followed his progress with keen interest.
Then in late spring 1987, Dinamo Zagreb (led by club president Ivo Vrhovec and head coach Ćiro Blažević) seemed interested after being made aware of the talented youngster with a thunderous shot by their own youth players Zvonimir Boban and Robert Prosinečki who played with Mihajlović on the SR Croatia select youth team at inter-republic youth tournaments. The club's assistant and youth coach Josip Kuže recommended the kid to his boss Blažević. After seeing Mihajlović practice, Blažević also agreed about the 18-year-old's potential, taking him with the rest of the first team to Sassari for an impromptu getaway between two league matches towards the end of the season, even giving him a substitute appearance in a Dinamo shirt in a friendly versus local club Torres Sassari.
The courtship between the club and the player continued over the summer off-season, and in September 1987, eighteen-year-old Mihajlović got invited to join Dinamo's youth squad for a friendly tournament in Salem, West Germany during September 1987 where he left a good impression, leading to a glowing recommendation from Zdenko Kobeščak, another Dinamo youth coach who led the youth squad to the tournament in West Germany. However, no deal was agreed again as the club's head coach Ćiro Blažević did not seem that intent on pursuing Mihajlović beyond cursory interest, feeling that Dinamo already had players for the central midfield position that were just as good if not better, such as incoming Haris Škoro, and club mainstays Marko Mlinarić and Stjepan Deverić. Apparently, among the things colourful Blažević said to youngster Mihajlović on the occasion was that he needs to cut his long hair and be prepared to be the fourth option for the midfield position. Dinamo was unwilling to fully commit to the player, offering just a scholarship-based contract instead of a professional one and Mihajlović thus decided to go back to Borovo.
The decision not to take Dinamo's offer was a costly one for Mihajlović career-wise as the Yugoslavia under-20 head coach Mirko Jozić clearly told him he would not be called up for the upcoming FIFA World Youth Championship in Chile unless he signed with the Zagreb club.
Mihajlović arrived to Novi Sad during the summer of 1988 as part of a slate of players acquired by the club during the same transfer window: talented 19-year-old defensive midfielder Slaviša Jokanović as well as a pair of 24-year-old defenders Budimir Vujačić and Miroslav Tanjga.
Playing alongside seasoned Yugoslav league veterans like forward Miloš Šestić and goalkeeper Čedo Maras, all four new acquisitions made major contribution on the squad led by also newly arrived head coach Ljupko Petrović as FK Vojvodina somewhat improbably went on to win the Yugoslav league title ahead of the Big Four clubs. Young Mihajlović immediately grabbed a midfield spot, appearing in 31 league matches, scoring 4 goals.
The following 1989–90 season saw Vojvodina compete in the European Cup for only the second time in club history. Though most of the key players from the previous league-winning season remained, Vojvodina stumbled at the very first hurdle versus Hungarian champions Honvéd. Losing the first leg 1–0 away at Budapest, seemingly a decent away result, was still extremely disappointing considering Honvéd played with 10 men from the 15th minute. At the return home leg played in front of half-empty stadium things went much better as Vojvodina got up 2–0 (including a bizarre opening goal from Šestić's in-swinging corner that Mihajlović deflected into goal using his hand), however a late own goal by defender Dragan Gaćeša dashed Vojvodina hopes of progressing further.
Red Star BelgradeEdit
Twenty-one-year-old Mihajlović signed with Red Star on 10 December 1990 in a high-profile transfer with a transfer fee of DM1 million paid out to Vojvodina. As for his personal terms, Mihajlović signed a 4-year contract for DM240,000 in total, plus the club bought him a Mazda 323F and a 3-bedroom apartment in Belgrade.
Arriving to a club coached by his old Vojvodina mentor Ljupko Petrović, Mihajlović was brought in to establish a robust presence on the left side of midfield as well as to score set-piece goals. Joining the squad full of rising European stars such as Dejan Savićević, Robert Prosinečki, Vladimir Jugović, Darko Pančev in addition to already established Miodrag Belodedici, Mihajlović fit in very well right from the start. He made 14 league appearances, but his most memorable moment came in the European Cup semi-final return leg versus Bayern Munich: in a man of the match performance Mihajlović scored both Red Star goals – the free-kick opener as well as the dramatic injury time winner on a shot that deflected off Klaus Augenthaler. In the final, Red Star defeated Olympique de Marseille on penalties, after a 0–0 draw at full time, with Mihajlović being one of the shootout scorers. Over twenty years later in 2011, talking to a French football magazine about the famous win in Bari, Mihajlović said:
That final is still very vivid in my memory. I think it was the most boring final match in the European Cup history. Few hours before the match, seven of us were shown tapes with Olympique matches. I remember Ljupko Petrović telling us: 'If we attack them we'll leave ourselves open for counterattacks', to which I asked 'so, what do we do then'. His answer was: 'When you get the ball, give it back to them'. So we spent 120 minutes on the pitch without practically touching the ball. The match went to penalties, Manuel Amoros failed to convert his whereas we converted all five. Had we approached the match with attacking mentality, we probably would've lost, not because Olympique were necessarily better than us, but because their players were used to playing big matches like this one. We had a squad full of 21, 22, and 23-year-old kids.
Mihajlović was also in the team later that year when Red Star Belgrade won the Intercontinental Cup, defeating Colo-Colo 3–0. He was then included by Yugoslavia national football team to UEFA Euro 1992, but the nation would be suspended due to the Yugoslav Wars.
In summer 1992, Juventus was interested in acquiring Mihajlović, but he moved to play for Roma where he was brought on initiative by compatriot head coach Vujadin Boškov, also a new arrival to Olimpico, having led Sampdoria in the European Cup Final mere months earlier. The transfer fee Roma paid to Red Star for Mihajlović was reportedly ITL8.5 billion (~US$5.9 million). Led on the pitch by talisman midfielder and hometown hero Giuseppe Giannini, Roma was looking to build on their previous season's 5th place league finish.
Despite competing against notable and established foreigners Aldair, Thomas Häßler, and Claudio Caniggia for three foreign matchday spots, Mihajlović managed to achieve a first team spot in the left midfield as well as to turn in a decent season with a single goal in 29 league appearances. However, the team had a disappointing overall season, finishing 10th in the Serie A final standings. Mihajlović also played a significant part in Roma's UEFA Cup campaign where they reached the quarterfinals – losing to Borussia Dortmund in a tie where the Serb scored a trademark free-kick for a 1–0 first leg lead, before being beaten 2–0 in the return. Due to the long term injury to Roma's left back Amedeo Carboni midway through the season, Mihajlović was moved to the left back role by coach Boškov.
The 1993–94 season started with new head coach Carlo Mazzone in charge as Boškov got shown the door. In addition to existing four foreigners, the club brought in Argentine ace Abel Balbo thus increasing the competition for three foreign spots. Mihajlović, for his part, still played the left back position under the new gaffer, which the player wasn't personally happy with. Still, even without European competition, the team again underachieved in Serie A, finishing in 7th spot – out of European spots for the second season running.
Years later, talking about his playing days, retired Mihajlović referred to his stay in Roma as "the two worst seasons of my entire career".
During summer 1994 transfer window, Mihajlović joined the third-placed club in previous season's Serie A standings and Coppa Italia winners – Sampdoria coached by Sven-Göran Eriksson. A few years removed from its late 1980s and early 1990s heyday, the Genoa side was still a very ambitious outfit, if not as financially stable, looking to challenge for trophies. Also arriving the same summer were Inter stalwarts Walter Zenga and Riccardo Ferri as part of the deal that took goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca the other way. For Mihajlović, the arrival to Marassi meant getting reunited with former Red Star teammate Vladimir Jugović.
Mihajlović's competitive debut for the club took place in late August 1994 in the Supercoppa Italiana match versus league champions AC Milan. It ended with mixed feelings: the Serb scored a trademark free-kick for the go-ahead goal, but after the contest ended in a draw and went to penalties, Mihajlović's spot kick hit the outer side of the crossbar and stayed out.
In his four seasons at Sampdoria, Mihajlović saw limited success in the Serie A. In the European competitions, however, he helped Sampdoria reach the 1994–95 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup semifinal, where they got eliminated by Arsenal on penalties.
In June 1998, Mihajlović represented Yugoslavia at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, playing all Yugoslav matches in the tournament. He scored a goal against Iran, and conceded an own goal against Germany. This made Mihajlović one of only fifth players to score both a goal and an own goal in the World Cup; the other ones being Ernie Brandts, Ruud Krol, Gustavo Peña and Mario Mandzukic.
In the summer of 1998, Mihajlović was brought to Lazio by head coach Sven-Göran Eriksson and club president Sergio Cragnotti for ₤8.5 million. Very quickly after coming back to the capital, Mihajlović finally won his first piece of silverware in Italy as Lazio beat Juventus in the Supercoppa Italiana during late August 1998.
An ambitious outfit backed by Cragnotti's food business, Lazio already challenged for major trophies as it finished the previous season a Coppa Italia winner and a UEFA Cup runner-up. However, league success still proved elusive with 7th place in Serie A simply not meeting expectations.
Strengthening the squad for a serious run at the Serie A title, in addition to Mihajlović, the summer 1998 transfer window also saw Cragnotti bring in 19-year-old midfield talent Dejan Stanković from Red Star Belgrade, established goalscorer Marcelo Salas from River Plate, and finally near the end of the transfer window as the biggest coup of all, superstar striker Christian Vieri from Atlético Madrid.
With Lazio, Mihajlović reached the final of the 1999 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, winning the last edition of that competition with a 2–1 victory against RCD Mallorca. Lazio also won the 1999 UEFA Super Cup. Playing 26 games and scoring seven goals during the Serie A 1999–2000 season as Lazio won the second Scudetto in club history. Mihajlović completed the double by helping Lazio win the 2000 Coppa Italia. Mihajlović represented Yugoslavia internationally again, as he selected to compete at the Euro 2000 tournament. In the first Yugoslav game of the tournament, Mihajlović was sent off against Slovenia. He served a one-game suspension before playing the last two games of the tournament.
Mihajlović won his last trophy with Lazio in 2004, beating Juventus in the Coppa Italia final.
In the summer 2004, 35-year-old Mihajlović was released from Lazio and joined his friend and former teammate Roberto Mancini at Internazionale on a free transfer, signing a one-year deal. On 16 June 2005 Mihajlović signed a one-year extension.
On 9 April 2006, in a league away game versus Ascoli, Mihajlović scored his 27th career free-kick goal in the Serie A championship. Mihajlović ended his playing career after the 2005–06 season, aged 37, having one Serie A championship, two Coppa Italia trophies and a Supercoppa Italia title as an Inter player.
Style of playEdit
Early into playing career, Mihajlović marked himself out with an extraordinary long-distance striking, crossing, and passing ability. His precise curling yet hard-driven left-footed shot allowed him to score spectacular free-kick goals on regular basis. A set-piece and penalty kick specialist, Mihajlović has said that he shot free-kicks from as far as 35 yards, adding in a 2000 interview with BBC Sport: "I like to shoot with a swerve into both sides of the net. I often try scoring directly from the corners.". Regarded as one of the greatest free kick takers of all time, he was capable of both scoring and creating chances from dead ball opportunities, and holds the record for the most goals in Serie A from free-kicks, alongside Andrea Pirlo, with 28 goals, as well as the record for second most goals from free kicks for a single Serie A club in all competitions, with 43, behind Alessandro Del Piero. Along with Giuseppe Signori, he is one of only two players who have scored a hat-trick from free kicks in Serie A, a feat which he accomplished during his time with Lazio, in a 5–2 win over Sampdoria, on 13 December 1998, during the 1998–99 season.
During his club career in Yugoslavia with FK Vojvodina and Red Star Belgrade as well as during his early spell at Roma, he played on the left side of midfield as winger, or as an attacking midfielder on occasion, where he was known for his stamina, speed, foot-work, and ability to cover the flank with his runs, as well as his excellent ball-striking ability with his left foot, and his ability to dictate attacking plays in midfield. Upon moving to Italy, Roma coach Carlo Mazzone deployed him as a defensive midfielder, although his performances in this position were somewhat inconsistent due to his limited tactical sense; midway through his first season in Italy, he was moved to the position of left back by new head coach Vujadin Boškov. In 1994, after transferring to Sampdoria under head coach Sven-Göran Eriksson, Mihajlović was moved to the centre of the team's defensive line, and remained in this position for the rest of his career. He later excelled in this newfound centre back role, where he functioned as a sweeper, due to his consistent defensive displays, physique, intelligence, leadership, and tenacity, as well as his good technique, touch on the ball, and long passing ability, which enabled him to play the ball out from the back; he drew praise from manager Carlo Mazzone, in particular, who described him as one of the best players in the world in his position.
After retiring from playing at Inter, Mihajlović right away began a coaching career at San Siro as assistant to head coach Roberto Mancini. Mihajlović and Mancini share a longtime friendship after playing together for five seasons at Sampdoria and Lazio.
Mihajlović's free-kick expertise has been praised by Zlatan Ibrahimović, who after several successful free-kicks thanked the then assistant coach Mihajlović who had trained him for two years at Inter.
On 3 November 2008, Mihajlović was appointed to replace Daniele Arrigoni at the helm of Serie A relegation-battling club Bologna. His Serie A bench debut came on 8 November 2008 at home versus Roma. The match ended in a 1–1 draw. His arrival to Bologna bench was characterized by five consecutive league draws before finally winning a match, a 5–2 victory against fellow bottom-feeder rivals Torino on 13 December 2008.
Mihajlović was sacked by Bologna on 14 April 2009 in the wake of a 1–4 home defeat against Siena, which dragged the team back into the relegation zone with seven matches remaining in the season. His tenure suffered from media rumours that he had numerous high-profile disagreements with senior players at the club which led to the poor form that eventually cost him the job. Under new head coach Giuseppe Papadopulo, Bologna avoided relegation to the Serie B on the last day of the season with a win over Catania.
On 8 December 2009 Mihajlović was appointed new head coach of Catania, taking over from Gianluca Atzori.  He signed a contract until June 2011 with gli elefanti and hired Dario Marcolin, his former teammate at Lazio and later colleague on Mancini's coaching staff at Inter, to be his assistant. Arriving at the club that was dead last in Serie A standings, Mihajlović made his debut with a home loss versus relegation rivals Livorno. However, the following week, his team pulled off a stunning upset by beating heavily favoured Juventus away in Turin with a 1–2 scoreline.
A successive string of good results, together with a number of key January signings such as former Argentine international striker Maxi López, helped Mihajlović keep the team out of the relegation zone and provide a number of very impressive performances. Another season highlight then came on 13 March 2010, as Catania achieved a historic 3–1 win versus Serie A league-toppers and Mihajlović's former team Inter.
Led by Mihajlović, Catania finished the season in 13th spot, well out of the relegation zone.
He resigned at the end of the season on 24 May 2010 amid reports linking him to incumbent UEFA Champions League winners Inter as a replacement for outgoing boss José Mourinho, which did not bring to anything in the end.
On 3 June 2010 Mihajlović was announced as the new head coach of Fiorentina, replacing outgoing Cesare Prandelli who left the Tuscan club after getting appointed by the Italian Football Federation to become the new Italy national football team manager.
Fiorentina had an underwhelming domestic league season behind them under Prandelli, finishing the campaign in eleventh place despite simultaneously making the Champions League round of 16 stage where they got eliminated by Bayern Munich on away goals, in large part due to some bad officiating during the first leg when a clearly offside Miroslav Klose goal was allowed to stand by Norwegian referee Tom Henning Øvrebø and his linesman. The Serb signed a two-year contract on a salary of just under €1 million per year and with no distraction of European football, the talented team seemed poised for a good Serie A season with Mihajlović saying that making Europe is a realistic goal.
However, right away things did not go according to plan as they got dealt a major blow by a preseason right knee injury to attacking midfielder Stevan Jovetić that would keep him out for the entire season. The league campaign started poorly with two draws and two losses before a win was finally recorded in week 5 at home versus Parma. However, that win was followed by two straight losses as the team continuously hovered in and around relegation zone. Things finally started picking up in late October 2010 with a home win versus Bari, but soon afterwards in November, Fiorentina further got weakened by an injury to first-choice goalkeeper Sébastien Frey that kept him out for the rest of the season. Still, Mihajlović's team continued its slow climb up the standings. Though bad away form continued, they finished the first half of the season in twelfth spot. In January 2011, an old favourite reappeared since the doping-related ban on Adrian Mutu expired as the forward with whom Mihajlović shares some colourful history from playing days rejoined the squad. Also Mihajlović signed winger Valon Behrami from West Ham United, but the alternating home and away form improved only slightly as the head coach experimented with various formations. In February 2011, Fiorentina won on the road for the first time in the season with a win at Palermo. And in March 2011, the team finally recorded two straight wins for the first time in the season, climbing up to eight spot (their best placing the entire season other than the seventh spot after opening week's draw). Still, the momentum wasn't kept up for a possible late push towards a European spot, and, under Mihajlović, Fiorentina ended the league season with 12 wins (only three of those away from home), 11 losses, and 15 draws, which was good enough for ninth place – twelve points out of a European spot.
During the summer 2011 transfer season, Mihajlović was strongly linked with a return to Inter in head coaching capacity, with certain Italian papers even reporting the specific date of his unveiling at the nerazzurri following supposed successful negotiations with Inter's sporting director Marco Branca. However, Mihajlović immediately denied those claims, pledging to stay on in Florence.
The season began in August 2011 with a Coppa Italia win over A.S. Cittadella. Couple of weeks later, still in late summer, the league season commenced at home with a 2–0 win over Mihajlović's former side Bologna, while the following week saw a loss away at Udine. Coming back home three days later for a match versus Parma, the side posted a 3–0 win followed by a hard-fought scoreless draw away at Napoli in front of 45,000 spectators. So at the end of September, four matches into the league season, things still looked decent, however, the first real blow was to come in the very next match at home versus Lazio – la Viola went ahead early, but the biancocelesti overturned the score 1–2 with Miroslav Klose scoring the winner in the 83rd minute. The loss was the sign of the things to come: the next match away at Cesena was a chance for redemption, but Fiorentina couldn't break down the resilient home team, despite having a man advantage from the 73rd minute as Adrian Mutu got sent off, the match ended 0–0. Six days later, more disappointment followed as la Viola led twice at home, but still dropped points to Catania 2–2, courtesy of Maxi Lopez's 82nd-minute equalizer. Failure to win the match brought boos and jeers from home fans. Winless in four matches, the trip to Turin to play resurgent Juventus couldn't have come at a worse time and the team succumbed 2–1, despite managing to equalize the score for a few minutes in the second half. With the winless streak now extended to five matches, Mihajlović was reportedly on thin ice and the word around Stadio Artemio Franchi was that he'd be sacked if he doesn't win the next match, at home versus Genoa. The knives were out for Mihajlović even from the team's own fans as he faced a barrage of abuse from the terraces throughout the match with calls for his sacking and even racist banners and chants targeting the coach's ethnicity. Still, despite the negative and hostile atmosphere, the team managed an unconvincing 1–0 win. The fans' verbal abuse of Mihajlović made headlines for the next couple of days and sections of Fiorentina support issued an apology of sorts to the coach by hanging a banner outside of the stadium. But the revival didn't last long as Mihajlović got sacked a week later on 7 November 2011, one day after the 1–0 away loss to ChievoVerona. The team was in 13th league spot with 12 points from 10 matches.
In 2012, the Football Association of Serbia has signed him to become the head coach of Serbia national football team until 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Serbia finished as the third in Group A of the qualifying phase in October 2013.
On 20 November 2013, Sampdoria named Mihajlović as the new head coach in place for Delio Rossi. He signed a one-year rolling contract with automatic extension in case of a successful escape from relegation in the ongoing season, with his assistant coach Nenad Sakić (a former Sampdoria player himself) following him too.
On his first season in charge, he guided Sampdoria to significant improvements in results and easily escaped relegation. He successively agreed to stay for one more season, after talks with new president Massimo Ferrero, who took over from the Garrone family in July 2014. In the first weeks of the 2014–15 season, he managed to obtain eight points and no defeats in the first four games of the season, overseeing quality performances from players such as Stefano Okaka. On 1 June 2015 he wrote an open letter to confirm his departure as the head coach of Sampdoria.
On 16 June 2015, Milan officially sacked Filippo Inzaghi, appointing Mihajlović as their new manager, with a contract until 30 June 2017. During his tenure at the club, he was highly praised for trusting and giving playing opportunities to Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was only 16 years old at the time. Mihajlović was sacked on 12 April 2016.
On 18 June 2018, Mihajlović took over as manager of Sporting CP, signing a three-year contract with the Portuguese club. Nine days after his arrival, he was sacked due to change of executive staff.
Return to BolognaEdit
On his second tenure at Bologna, he achieved an impressive 30 points in 17 games, in comparison with 14 points achieved by his predecessor Inzaghi; thanks to those results, he managed to keep Bologna into the top flight with ease, and was confirmed at the helm of Bologna for the following season.
On 13 July 2019, Mihajlović publicly announced in a press conference he was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia, with sporting director Walter Sabatini confirming Mihajlović would stay in charge of the club nonetheless.
Mihajlović is married to Arianna Rapaccioni, a former TV presenter, with whom he has five children; three sons and two daughters.
|Red Star Belgrade||1990–91||14||1||3||1||5||1||—||22||3|
- Note: Yugoslavia was banned from international football in 1993, since 1994 FR Yugoslavia became the successor of SFR Yugoslavia national team.
Mihajlović developed and fostered a reputation as a hard-nosed, tough-tackling player with a short fuse and no fear. As such he has had many physical and verbal run-ins with opposing players that occasionally spilled outside of the pitch.
Already known as someone who did not back away from physical play, the 22-year-old was one of the main protagonists of the ill-tempered 1991 Yugoslav Cup Final between Red Star and Hajduk Split on 8 May 1991. Although of secondary importance to Red Star, which was getting ready for the European Cup Final three weeks later, the match still featured a degree of tension due to pitting a Serb side against a Croat one in an atmosphere of inter-ethnic incidents between Croats and Croatian Serbs in eastern Slavonia and Dalmatia regions of SR Croatia, including Mihajlović's hometown Borovo that saw a deadly incident only six days before the final. Early into the match Hajduk's 23-year-old defender Igor Štimac and Mihajlović got into frequent verbal altercations, and according to Mihajlović during one of their exchanges Štimac told him: 'I hope our guys kill all of your family in Borovo'. Fueling Mihajlović's rage further was the fact that due to the phone service interruptions, he had not heard from his parents in more than a week, and he admitted to spending the rest of the match targeting Štimac in an attempt to injure him severely. Štimac also didn't back down and the two exchanged plenty of reckless tackles as their private duel became a sideshow to the entire final. In the 70th minute Mihajlović slid in for a hard bone-crunching tackle on another Hajduk player Grgica Kovač that led to play temporarily being stopped as both sets of players confronted each other. Mihajlović was led away by Hajduk player Ante Miše (the two knew each other from before since they're both from Borovo) who grabbed him by the hair while Red Star's Ilija Najdoski grabbed Hajduk's Slaven Bilić by the hair and pushed him while Štimac ran the length of the pitch and jumped into the fracas with a raised fist attempting to punch Najdoski. Mihajlović received a second yellow for the challenge on Kovač, and the referee Adem Fazlagić also gave Štimac a second yellow, which meant both players got sent off.
A month later on 5 June 1991, Red Star and Hajduk played another match, this time in the league. It was Red Star's first league match after becoming European champions a week earlier in Bari. The match was of no competitive importance as Red Star were already league champions elect while Hajduk was lagging far behind in eight place, but that didn't stop Mihajlović and Štimac from continuing their personal duel in another incident-filled match with Mihajlović getting sent off again.
At the 1998 FIFA World Cup Yugoslavia versus Germany group stage match, Jens Jeremies squared up to Mihajlović following a rough challenge by the Yugoslav and the two exchanged verbal insults. Though at first glance everything ended there, television camera from another angle caught Mihajlović spitting in the German's face.
Later that year in November, during the Lazio versus FK Partizan second leg UEFA Cup Winners' Cup second round tie, 30-year-old Mihajlović had a match-long battle with 20-year-old striker Mateja Kežman. Playing old cross-town rivals in front of large home crowd seemed to provide extra motivation for Mihajlović.
By Euro 2000, Mihajlović's temper was well noted in the football world and he showed lack of control again during the opening group stage match versus Slovenia. Three minutes after gifting Slovenia a 0–3 lead when his cross-field pass got intercepted by Zlatko Zahovič, frustrated Mihajlović first got a yellow card for hacking down a Slovenian player as they jostled for position while going up for a high ball. Mere seconds later, as tempers flared and Sašo Udovič and Albert Nađ exchanged insults, a completely rattled Mihajlović needlessly approached Udovič, giving him a slight petulant push. Udovič theatrically fell to the ground, resulting in Mihajlović receiving another yellow card from Portuguese referee Vítor Pereira thus getting himself sent off. Ten-man Yugoslavia still managed to come back in the last 30 minutes to tie the score 3–3.
Several months later, in October 2000, Mihajlović raised a storm of controversy due to his alleged racist remarks directed at Arsenal's Patrick Vieira. The incident occurred during the ill-tempered Lazio versus Arsenal UEFA Champions League match on 17 October 2000 at Stadio Olimpico. Throughout the match Mihajlović had run-ins with several Arsenal players including Martin Keown and Robert Pires, but things really boiled over after the final whistle as Mihajlović and Vieira were seen trading insults and trying to get at one another physically before being restrained by teammates. After the match Vieira spoke to the media, accusing Mihajlović of racist abuse, specifically remarks that were revealed to be "nero di merda" (black piece of shit) or "fucking black monkey." Mihajlović subsequently apologized, but contended that his words were in retaliation to Vieira's remarks, calling Mihajlović a "zingaro di merda" (Gypsy piece of shit). Two months later in December 2000, Mihajlović came under police investigation over the event for possibly violating an anti-racism law in Italy. Italian investigators planned on using Mihajlović's own post-game admission that he insulted Vieira to file charges that he violated a 1993 law that criminalizes the "spreading ... of ideas based on racial or ethnic superiority or hate", however nothing ever came of it. Six years later Mihajlović and Vieira became part of the same team when the Senegalese-born Frenchman joined Inter where freshly retired from playing Mihajlović was already named assistant to head coach Roberto Mancini. By all accounts, the former on-pitch adversaries got along very well during their two years together at San Siro. Vieira even came as one of the guests for Mihajlović's testimonial match on 28 May 2007 in Novi Sad.
On 7 November 2003, Mihajlović received an eight match suspension by UEFA for spitting at and kicking Chelsea's Adrian Mutu during a Champions League group stage match. Some six and a half years later, Mihajlović became the head coach of Fiorentina, where Mutu was playing at the time.
Even in the twilight of his playing career at Inter, 36-year-old Mihajlović stuck to his physical defensive style, getting into memorable tussles with Juve's 23-year-old rising superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović during the Derby d'Italia.
A vocal and outspoken presence, known for his leadership, Mihajlović has, however, also attracted much controversy throughout both his playing and coaching careers, due to having expressed extremist and nationalistic political views and affiliations.
Soon after taking over as head coach of Serbian national team in May 2012, Mihajlović drew up a code-of-conduct to be signed by players called up for international duty. One of the central points was his insistence that players sing the national anthem before matches. On 28 May, after Adem Ljajić failed to do so despite signing the code-of-conduct, Mihajlović removed him from the team.
In 2012 and 2013, Mihajlović was accused on a number of occasions of allowing player agents influence his team selection. Mihajlović denied the allegations and initiated a number of lawsuits for libel.
- As of 8 November 2019
- Red Star Belgrade
- Serie A: 1999–2000
- Coppa Italia: 1999–2000, 2003–04
- Supercoppa Italiana: 1998, 2000
- UEFA Cup Winners Cup: 1998–99
- UEFA Super Cup: 1999
- 1990 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship (Runners-up)
- Best free kick specialists: In 2009, Guardian placed Mihajlović at #5 of the 6 top free kick specialists, Daily Mail placed him at #10 of 10 in their May 2009 list, in September 2009 Independent placed him at #8 of "The Ten Best Free-Kick Specialists", In January 2009 Soccerlens placed him at #2 of "Top Ten Free Kick Specialists Of All Time" and Gianni Verschueren's December 2012 "Ranking the Greatest Free-Kick Takers of All Time" top ten list on Bleacher Report placed him at #5 followed by Alex Richards' December 2013 "Ranking the 16 Greatest Free-Kick Takers of All Time" list on the same site placed him at #2.
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