Predrag Mijatović

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Predrag Mijatović
Predrag Mijatović 2007 b.jpg
Mijatović in 2007
Personal information
Full name Predrag Mijatović
Date of birth (1969-01-19) 19 January 1969 (age 45)
Place of birth Titograd, SFR Yugoslavia
Height 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)
Playing position Striker
Youth career
Kom
Mladost Titograd
Budućnost Titograd
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1987–1989 Budućnost Titograd 72 (10)
1989–1993 Partizan 104 (45)
1993–1996 Valencia 104 (56)
1996–1999 Real Madrid 90 (29)
1999–2002 Fiorentina 42 (4)
2002–2004 Levante 21 (3)
Total 433 (148)
National team
1989–2003 Yugoslavia 73 (26)
Teams managed
2006–2009 Real Madrid (Director of Football)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Predrag "Peđa" Mijatović (Serbian Cyrillic: Предраг "Пеђа" Мијатовић, pronounced [prêdraɡ mijǎtoʋit͡ɕ]; born 19 January 1969) is a Montenegrin football player and former sports director of Real Madrid. He was acclaimed as the best athlete of Yugoslavia in 1997. 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, Partizan, Valencia, Real Madrid, Fiorentina, and Levante. Internationally, Mijatović has been capped 73 times, scoring 26 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 impressive 28 goals in the 1995–96 Primera División season for Valencia, which in turn led him to controversially move to Real Madrid, where he scored 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 1997, Mijatović was runner-up for the Ballon d'Or, behind Ronaldo and ahead of Zinedine Zidane.[1]

Club career[edit]

Budućnost[edit]

After spending a few years in the FK Budućnost Titograd youth system, the then 18-year-old Mijatović made his debut for the full squad in 1987 during last part of the 1986–87 league season under head coach Milan Živadinović.

It was in the following 1987–88 season that he became a team regular under the newly arrived head coach Špaco Poklepović. In October 1987, as part of the Yugoslav youth squad that competed in and won the World Youth Championship in Chile, Mijatović had a notable tournament. Playing in Chile meant that he was away from the club for the entire month of October. Coming back to the club as a hero, young Mijatović's spot on the squad was now cemented alongside Dejan Savićević, Dragoljub Brnović, and fellow 'Chilean' Branko Brnović. The youngster made 31 league appearances and contributed 4 goals as Budućnost finished the season in 9th spot.

During the winter of 1989–90, the talented 20-year-old was close to signing with Hajduk Split after negotiating with Hajduk's sporting director Jurica Jerković with even a DM50,000 pre-contract payment given to the player,[2][3] before Partizan's president Mirko Marjanović stepped in and convinced him to come to Belgrade. Partizan ended up paying a DM1 million transfer fee to Budućnost for Mijatović in December 1989. In later interviews Mijatović said that deteriorating political and security situation in Yugoslavia was a factor in his decision not to go to the Croatian club.[4]

Partizan[edit]

Though he scored on his Partizan debut against his former club FK Budućnost,[5] Mijatović's debut half season in the new club under head coach Ivan Golac was mostly spent settling into the new surroundings as he failed to add to his scoring tally in the following 14 league appearances until the end of the 1989–90 league season. Partizan was off the pace for the league title, finishing the season in 4th spot as Golac got replaced by returning head coach Nenad Bjeković.

The next league campaign (Mijatović's first full season at Partizan) provided a bit of breakthrough as he became a prominent team member with 14 goals in 33 league appearances under new head coach Miloš Milutinović. 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 Yugoslavia disintegrated meaning that the new Yugoslav League consisted of teams from Serbia and Montenegro 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.[6]

Valencia[edit]

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[edit]

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. Despite being known for his extremely defensive tactics while with AC Milan, head coach Fabio Capello played a three-man attack: 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 Bernabéu after a 32-year wait. Real beat Juventus in May 1998 in Amsterdam's ArenA 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[edit]

Arriving in summer 1999 to the club that finished the previous Serie A season in third place (thus qualifying for the Champions League after putting in a legitimate title challenge for a while), the expectations were substantial. At the same time Mijatović was brought in, another striker, 28-year-old Enrico Chiesa, came to Florence from AC Parma. Their arrivals were part of an effort by club president Vittorio Cecchi Gori to make the squad more competitive for the title run as well as to keep club legend Gabriel Batistuta happy, since the famous striker who recently turned 30 started considering his option to leave in search of the Scudetto that eluded him for years.

In Florence Mijatović initially played under experienced head coach Giovanni Trapattoni, with Batistuta and 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. In total, he made 16 league appearances throughout the season, scoring 2 goals while also having to deal with injury problems that caused him to miss a lot of matches. From team standpoint, the season was deemed a disappointement as Fiorentia fell out of the league contention following a good spell of results at the beginning while in Champions League they got to the second group stage.

Trapattoni left at the end of the 1999–00 season and was replaced by Fatih Terim who was coming off winning the UEFA Cup with Galatasaray. Also, the talismanic striker Batistuta was sold to Roma, which signaled the end of an era for the club in many ways. Using some of the huge sum of money Roma paid for Batistuta, Cecchi Gori brought in young striker Nuno Gomes from Benfica for €17 million. The season started great with wins over Juventus and a draw with Milan, but the form didn't last. Mijatović's injury problems returned, forcing him to the sidelines. Terim left mid-season over disagreements with president over the future signings, and Roberto Mancini was brought in as his replacement. The team finished in ninth league spot while improbably winning the Coppa Italia trophy. Mijatović made only 13 league appearances (some of them as substitute), scoring 1 goal.

The summer 2001 offseason saw further big name sales as Fiorentina began to experience serious financial trouble – goalkeeper Francesco Toldo and attacking midfielder Manuel Rui Costa were sold to Inter and AC Milan, respectively. Mijatović, now 32 years of age, stayed, but it was clear his form and physical fitness were in rapid decline. The team had a disastrous season, getting relegated and going into bankruptcy administration.

International career[edit]

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. "Pedja" 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 Budapest and 4 goals in the return home leg at the Marakana). Yugoslavia demolished their opposition 12–1 on aggregate and qualified for the 1998 World Cup in France.

World Cup 1998[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Personal life[edit]

Born in Titograd, SR Montenegro, SFR Yugoslavia, Mijatović grew up in the Masline neighbourhood on the town outskirts. He is of Cuce clan ancestry.[7]

Mijatović's personal life has been well-publicized due to his turbulent relationship with Belgrade socialite Elena Karaman Karić. 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 3 June 2009, the official website of Real Madrid stated that Andreja, aged 15, died after a long illness, and offered its "deepest sympathies on behalf of the entire club and its members".[8]

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.[citation needed]

Career statistics[edit]

International[edit]

Yugoslavia national team
Year Apps Goals
1989 3 0
1990 5 0
1991 1 0
1992 1 0
1993 0 0
1994 2 0
1995 1 0
1996 6 3
1997 8 10
1998 11 3
1999 7 2
2000 12 4
2001 6 2
2002 6 1
2003 5 1
Total 73 26

Post-playing[edit]

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

Real Madrid director of football[edit]

In June 2006, Mijatović hooked up with Ramón Calderón as part of the lawyer's 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 16 January 2009, Calderón resigned his post and by mid February reports appeared that Mijatović's is on his way out as well.[9] 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 20 May 2009, Real Madrid announced Mijatović's departure.

In the end, Calderón and Mijatović left a mixed legacy of their time heading Real's front office. On one hand they presided over two La Liga titles in addition to signing the already established world-class winger Arjen Robben, but are more remembered for the high profile superstars they promised but couldn't deliver such as Cesc Fàbregas, Kaká, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Other notable players Mijatović had a hand in signing to Real were Ruud van Nistelrooy from Manchester United, defensive midfielder Mahamadou Diarra from Lyon, 19-year-old striker Gonzalo Higuaín from River Plate, 18-year-old left back Marcelo Vieira from Fluminense, the emerging 23-year-old midfield creator Wesley Sneijder from Ajax, defensive midfielder Royston Drenthe from Feyenoord, attacking midfielder Rafael van der Vaart from Hamburger SV, and striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from Ajax.

After Real Madrid[edit]

In May 2011, Mijatović was linked with the sporting director position at Chelsea following the departure of Frank Arnesen,[10] however nothing came of it since in July 2011 the club promoted assistant first team coach Michael Emenalo to the position.

Through his friendship with FC Anzhi general manager German Chistyakov, Mijatović was reportedly part of the three-man delegation (the other two were Anzhi's transfer man German Tkachenko and Serbian player agent Vlado Lemić) the Russian club deployed to Milan on 9 August 2011 for initial negotiations with Inter (represented by sporting director Marco Branca and vice-president Rinaldo Ghelfi) over the transfer of Samuel Eto'o.[11][12] Also present at the meeting were Eto'o's personal agent Claudio Vigorelli as well as his lawyer Alberto Ziliani while the role of Mijatović and Lemić was mostly as intermediaries between the two clubs. Some two weeks later, on 23 August, Eto'o's transfer to Dagestan was agreed and announced.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
Aleksandra Ivošev
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia The Best Athlete of Yugoslavia
1997
Succeeded by
Dejan Bodiroga