‘For me, this is paradise, a big deal. You can’t get further ahead. I’ve never ordered anyone to call me ‘mister’, I just asked.’
When you are a legendary player of a club, and then you get a chance to run that club, it is clear you have made good in your football career. That captures well how Dejan Stanković is feeling as a man who took up a job, sat on his favourite club’s bench, and already has the title of the champion of Serbia under his belt, which he won with the Red Star players.
- For me, this is the best thing at the moment, you can’t top it, and I really appreciate it – it’s paradise. I pinch myself and, when I pause to think about it – Wow! The coach of Red Star, a big big deal. You can’t’ get further ahead, Stanković rattles off.
Were you scared when you got the offer to coach the club that you love?
- Of course there’s fear. Who doesn’t feel afraid? I have always been afraid, and I’ve been good with it. A positive fear keeps you alert and on your toes. When you let your guard down, you make mistakes, as you do in any other line of work. If you say to yourself, this’ll be easy, something gets in the way. I love the fear, the adrenaline, the tension, you need to have that to get top results.
Much has been said about your nickname ‘mister’.
- It was perfectly alright to call our dear Radomir Antić ‘mister’, and it sounds OK to me. I never ordered anyone, I simply asked to be called ‘mister’, and it’s not a big deal. I cannot be bigger, or smaller, nor can I be more popular, richer, or poorer than I am now. I have nothing to prove to anyone, so why would I put on an act? I feel good in my own shoes.
There are also stories around about how you can give quite a scolding to those that you selected...
- When I need to be strict, it just comes out. I don’t rehearse it, it’s professional. If I yell at you or tell you what I think, it’s constructive criticism, and that’s it. I’ve said this to the boys, it’s nothing personal.
You spent more than two decades in Italy. Was it easy for your mind and language to come back to Serbia?
- When I catch myself talking to myself, analysing the day, I do it in Italian automatically. I can read it and write it; I did spend 22 years there after all. But, I’m in Serbia now, so Serbian only.
We know that you taught Italians many things about Serbia.
- All my friends in Italy, wherever I used to play, would address me using ‘brate’ (‘bro’). They all know the three-finger salute and how to swear. I’m not proud of teaching them, but it’s simply something you learn first when you’re in a locker room with a Serbian.
What Inter did when you played there no one has been able to repeat. How do you see the ‘triple’ crown today?
- Three trophies made history which is still relevant today. No one has done it in Italy, some are trying, but they can’t, and I hope it stays that way. I’m referring to Juventus, of course. I’m just so proud of what I did and what we did.
When you are training the players, it appears that you are in a good enough shape to play yourself.
- I’m still a bit on the big side, but I’m happy with it. As long as I have something to wear in the locker, it’s all good. When I have nothing to wear, I’ll know that I’ve gone too far, Stanković concludes.
A twist of fate
‘I scored a goal against Partizan and met Ana’
Dejan Stanković has been married to Ana for two decades, and the memory of the first encounter does not fade.
- It was 21 February 1998. After a derby which we won 2 to 1, and I scored the winning goal, I met Ana and said, ‘That’s it.’ It feels like a boom inside you, says Red Star’s coach, who is now away from his wife and two sons on work, while their third son is with him in Belgrade.
- Before, I used to have my coffee with Ana in Milan. Now, we all have our coffees separately. I’m here with our youngest son, so the two of us are carbon copies, a winning duo.
‘The only thing I have to do is kiss my family.’
It is clear that a Red Star coach is expected to make sure his team is the best in the country. After playing in the Champions league twice, the supporters’ ‘European’ expectations are running high.
- You don’t have to do anything in life. I only have to hug and kiss my family, and tell them that I love them. You don’t have to do anything else, but we will do it. We have the strength and power to catch up with and then overtake everyone else. But we do not have to! Every day we have a cycle of preparations here for what we have in August. Take my word for it, we will be ready.
(www.kurir.rs / By Gojko Filipović)