Slaven Bilić (pronounced [slǎʋen bǐːlitɕ]; born 11 September 1968) is a Croatian football manager and former professional player who played as a defender. He is the current manager of English club West Bromwich Albion.
Bilić during a West Ham press conference in 2015
|Full name||Slaven Bilić|
|Date of birth||11 September 1968|
|Place of birth||Split, SR Croatia, Yugoslavia|
|Height||1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)|
|West Bromwich Albion (manager)|
|1988||→ Primorac (loan)||13||(1)|
|1988–1989||→ Šibenik (loan)||33||(7)|
|1996–1997||West Ham United||48||(2)|
|2015–2017||West Ham United|
|2019–||West Bromwich Albion|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Bilić, who played as a defender, began his career in 1988 with his hometown club Hajduk Split, later having successful spells with Karlsruher SC in Germany and West Ham United and Everton in England before retiring from active football in 2001. At the international level, Bilić served as one of Croatia's most consistent defenders during the tenure of coach Miroslav Blažević, earning 44 caps between 1992 and 1999 and playing in UEFA Euro 1996 and the 1998 FIFA World Cup, helping the team to third place at the latter tournament.
Following his playing retirement in 2001 at Hajduk Split, Bilić coached the team in the second half of the 2001–02 season. Between 2004 and 2006, he managed the Croatian under-21 team before taking over the senior national side. He led the team to the quarter-finals of the 2008 European championship and left after the next edition four years later. He was praised for his long-standing service to the national side and credited with successfully overseeing the introduction of a series of young players from the under-21 squad to the senior side. He left for the Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow in 2012, and then spent two years apiece managing Turkish club Beşiktaş and West Ham. In 2018, he was announced as the new head coach of Al-Ittihad. In February 2019, he was sacked from the role at Ittihad.
Early life and Hajduk SplitEdit
Almost all Hajduk juniors went to the Economics School, so Bilić wanted to go as well. There were no classical grammar schools in Split, so he enrolled in information, journalism and documentary studies (INDOK). All throughout high school, Bilić ended up with the highest grades, so he graduated with Matura. His favorite subjects were maths and history. When he was choosing where to enroll in college, he already knew he would be a footballer. After graduating from high school, he completed his law school in Split, where his father was the dean.
As a Hajduk player, he was on loan for half a year at NK Primorac from Stobreč, and for half a year in NK Šibenik and for another year in Šibenik who fought for the first place spot in the Second league. Bilić, as center half, scored seven goals and played for the national team. Petar Nadoveza called him up for three matches: in Skopje, Niš and Mostar. He scored two goals and was declared man of the match in all three matches.
Bilić became the target of clubs such as Dinamo Zagreb, Red Star Belgrade and FK Partizan who all wanted to acquire the young defender. He helped his club win the 1990–91 Yugoslav Cup before the dismantling of the Yugoslav league. During the first season of the newly founded Croatian First Football League, Hajduk won the league and Super Cup. One season later, they also secured the Croatian Cup.
West Ham UnitedEdit
In January 1996, Harry Redknapp, manager of English Premier League club 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. He made his debut on 12 February 1996 in a 0–1 away win against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Bilić's shot was saved by Tottenham goalkeeper Ian Walker only for West Ham's Dani, another debutant, to divert the ball into the Tottenham goal.
Bilić scored three goals in his time with West Ham: two in the Premier League, against Liverpool and Sunderland, and one in the League Cup against Barnet, heading-in from a Stan Lazaridis corner, his first for the club. He played 13 games in the 1995–96 season and 41 in the 1996–97 season, a season which also saw him voted a runner-up, to Julian Dicks, for the Hammer of the Year award.
In March 1997, Everton manager Joe Royle brokered a £4.5 million move, with Bilić claiming he had a debt of loyalty to West Ham to stay with the club until the end of the season to ensure they were not relegated. West Ham finished in 14th place, two points above the relegation places.
Bilić turned out for Everton in August 1997 after assuring himself of new manager Howard Kendall's full support. He initially brought some class to the Toffees' backline, but his season was marred by bookings that saw him miss several games through suspension.
After his exertions in the 1998 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 released Bilić in July 1999. Just two days later, Bilić signed up with his home club Hajduk Split, where he briefly played until retiring. He led Hajduk as team captain to their first trophy in five years winning the Croatian Cup.
Bilić went into the 1998 World Cup with Croatia, where the team were the surprise package of the tournament, falling in the semi-finals to 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 Bilić marking the French defender. He 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 Štimac. Blanc was sent off and missed the World Cup final through suspension. Bilić did not apologize but did say, "I swear if I could change that so [Blanc] could play in the final, I would."
|Yugoslavia||League||Yugoslav Cup||League Cup||Europe||Total||–|
|Primorac||1988–89||Croatian Republican League||13||1||0||0||–||–||–||–||13||1|||
|Šibenik||1988–89||Yugoslav Second League||33||7||2||0||–||–||–||–||35||7|||
|Hajduk Split||1988–89||Yugoslav First League||3||2||0||0||–||–||–||–||3||2|||
|Croatia||League||Croatian Cup||Super Cup||Europe||Total||–|
|Hajduk Split||1992||Prva HNL||20||1||2||0||–||–||1||0||23||1|||
|England||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Europe||Total||–|
|West Ham United||1995–96||FA Premier League||13||0||0||0||–||–||–||–||13||0|||
|Croatia||League||Croatian Cup||Super Cup||Europe||Total||–|
|Hajduk Split||1999-00||Prva HNL||9||0||4||0||–||–||0||0||13||0|||
|Croatia national team|
- Results list Croatia's goal tally first.
|1||8 October 1996||Stadium Dall' Ara, Bologna||Bosnia and Herzegovina||World Cup 1998 Qualifying|
|2||6 September 1997||Maksimir, Zagreb||Bosnia and Herzegovina||World Cup 1998 Qualifying|
|3||29 October 1997||Maksimir, Zagreb||Ukraine||World Cup 1998 Qualifying|
As a shareholder in his hometown club, Hajduk Split, he temporarily agreed to manage them until the club found a replacement manager. Having admitted that the adrenaline inspired him, he reportedly received guidance after travelling Europe and visiting Arsène Wenger and Marcello Lippi.
Bilić was appointed head coach of the senior 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 was the promotion of three players from the U-21 squad: Eduardo, Luka Modrić and Vedran Ćorluka, who would all eventually enjoy impressive success and make transfers to the Premier League. The team's first official game under Bilić was the 0–2 friendly win in Livorno against Italy, while Bilić's first competitive game was the 0–0 draw in Moscow against Russia in the opener for their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. Many criticized this result due to Bilić's suspension of Darijo Srna, Ivica Olić and Boško Balaban who escaped from camp three days before the match and went to the night club Fontana in Zagreb. It is likely that no one would have found out, but there was a gunfight and a police intervention.
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 did not qualify and sacked their manager Steve McClaren.
At the Euro 2008 tournament itself, where he was the youngest coach, Bilić 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 side's 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 labelled as favourites for the tournament, but suffered an exit in the quarter-finals against Turkey, and he admitted that the defeat would haunt him and his squad for the rest of their lives.
Croatia opened UEFA Euro 2012 with a 3–1 victory over the Republic of Ireland, with striker Mario Mandžukić scoring twice, and Mandžukić also scored an equaliser in the 1–1 draw against Italy. After a 1–0 defeat to Spain, Croatia exited the tournament in the group stage. However, the team subsequently garnered widespread domestic praise for their performance, and were greeted by a large crowd upon their return. Upon his formal departure, Bilić was also praised for his long-standing service to the national side. Domestic media outlet Jutarnji List labelled him as Croatia's only manager to depart on such positive terms and credited him for his strong revival of the national side during his six-year tenure.
On 14 May 2012, it was confirmed that Bilić had signed a coaching contract with the Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow. Upon the confirmation of signing, Lokomotiv chairman Olga Smorodskaya stated that Lokomotiv had tough competition in signing Bilić, as he was targeted by many clubs around Europe who wanted to sign him as their new manager. Bilić took over the team after the Euro 2012 tournament had finished. His assistants included former teammates and former assistants during his tenure as manager in national team Aljoša Asanović and Nikola Jurčević. Upon his arrival he made his first big signing for the team, signing his ex-Croatian international player Vedran Ćorluka from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of £5.5 million. His first official match as the new Lokomotiv manager came on 20 July 2012 in away match against Mordoviya Saransk, ending in 3–2 win for Lokomotiv. Bilić's first season as a manager ended with the Lokomotiv's worst league result, ninth place, since the establishment of Russian championship in 1992. Bilić accepted responsibility for Lokomotiv's failure and was sacked on 18 June 2013.
After leaving Lokomotiv, Bilić entered talks to take over as Beşiktaş manager. The deal was confirmed on 26 June 2013 after an agreement to a three-year contract worth €4.8 million. Bilić signed the contract on 28 June 2013. On 22 September 2013, Bilić was sent-off from the bench by referee Fırat Aydınus during the İstanbul Derby against Galatasaray after Bilić had complained about the amount of time added by the referee. Beşiktaş President Fikret Orman announced on 21 May 2015 that Bilić would leave the club at the end of the 2014–15 season.
West Ham UnitedEdit
Bilić was appointed manager of English Premier League club West Ham United on 9 June 2015 on a three-year contract. In his first Premier League game on 9 August, his team beat Arsenal 2–0 at the Emirates Stadium. Three weeks later, he became the first manager to lead West Ham to victory against Liverpool at Anfield since 1963. On 19 September, Bilić led West Ham to a third successive away win 1–2 against Manchester City. It was the first time the Hammers had won three successive Premier League away games since September 2007, and only three other sides had recorded away wins at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City in the same Premier League season. In Bilić's first season as manager, West Ham finished seventh in the Premier League. The team broke several records for the club in the Premier League era, including the highest number of points with 62, the highest number of goals in a season with 65, a positive goal difference for the first time in the Premier League with +14, the fewest games lost in a season with eight and the fewest away defeats with five.
Following Manchester United's win in the 2016 FA Cup Final, West Ham took their UEFA Europa League place and qualified for the third qualifying round of the 2016–17 UEFA Europa League. For the second season in a row they were eliminated in the qualifying rounds by Romanian side, FC Astra Giurgiu. In his second season in charge West Ham finished 11th in the Premier League in a challenging debut season at the London Stadium following the acrimonious departure of star player, Dimitri Payet.
After a run of poor results in the Premier League, culminating in a 4–1 home loss to Liverpool on 4 November 2017, Bilić was sacked. The announcement, made two days after the game, stated that "West Ham United can confirm that Slaven Bilic has today left his position with the club. West Ham United believe a change is now necessary in order for the club to move forward positively and in line with their ambition." He left the team with a record of 1.33 points per Premier League game, which is the best of any previous West Ham manager.
On 27 September 2018, Bilić joined Al-Ittihad of the Saudi Professional League. On 24 February 2019, after only 5 months as manager of Al-Ittihad and after winning only 4 of his 17 matches, Bilić got sacked from the position.
West Bromwich AlbionEdit
- As of 24 February 2019 
|Croatia U21||1 July 2004||30 June 2006||19||8||4||7||42.1|
|Croatia||25 July 2006||14 May 2012||65||42||15||8||64.6|
|Lokomotiv Moscow||14 May 2012||18 June 2013||32||13||7||12||40.6|
|Beşiktaş||28 June 2013||21 May 2015||91||47||22||22||51.6|
|West Ham United||9 June 2015||4 November 2017||111||42||30||39||37.8|
|Al-Ittihad||5 October 2018||24 February 2019||17||4||5||8||23.5[failed verification]|
|West Bromwich Albion||13 June 2019||Present||0||0||0||0||—|
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."
Along with his native Croatian, Bilić is fluent in German, Italian and English, while he also holds a degree in law. As a big fan of rock music, he plays rhythm guitar with his favoured red Gibson Explorer and is a member of Rawbau, a Croatian rock group. In 2008, the band recorded a song for Croatia's performance at Euro 2008 called "Vatreno ludilo" ("Fiery Madness"). Bilić has identified himself as a socialist, and has said, "If you know to share what you own, you live happily and with honor. I am a true socialist. I know I can't save the world on my own; but if there is a struggle against unjustness, I always prefer to be on the frontline, and that is my attitude toward life."
- Prva HNL Player of the Year: 1992
- Best Croatian footballer of 1997 by Novi list
- Best Croatian footballer of 1997 by Sportske novosti
- Ivica Jobo Kurtini Award: 1997
- Franjo Bučar State Award for Sport: 1998 (as player) and 2007 (as manager)
- Media Servis person of the year: 2007
- Vatrena krila heart of the supporters Award: 2014
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