Halilhodžić as head coach of Algeria in 2014
|Full name||Vahid Halilhodžić|
|Date of birth||15 May 1952|
|Place of birth||Jablanica, FPR Yugoslavia|
|Height||1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)|
|1971–1972||→ Neretva (loan)||18||(8)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Regarded as one of the best Yugoslav players in the 1970s and 1980s, Halilhodžić had successful playing spells with Velež Mostar and French clubs Nantes and Paris Saint-Germain before retiring in the mid-1980s. During that time, he earned 15 full international caps for Yugoslavia and was part of national squads who won the 1978 European Under-21 Championship and played at the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
In the early 1990s, he turned to coaching and, after a short stint as a sporting director at his hometown club Velež, permanently moved to France in 1993. Since then, he managed a number of teams in French-speaking countries and his achievements include winning the 1997 CAF Champions League with Moroccan side Raja Casablanca, leading the French side Lille from second level to third place in Ligue 1 in less than three years, and winning the 2004 Coupe de France with Paris Saint-Germain.
He also qualified for the 2010 World Cup with the Ivory Coast (although he was sacked only months before the final tournament) and the 2014 World Cup with Algeria, with whom he reached Round of 16, Algeria's best result in history. Later, he qualified for the 2018 World Cup with Japan, but again was fired just prior to the tournament.
Early life and Velež
Born in Jablanica, Halilhodžić started playing football in his early teens at local minnows FK Turbina Jablanica, as the club's ground was located some 100 metres from his family home. According to his admission, he did not consider becoming a professional footballer at the time and instead chose to continue his formal education, moving to the nearby city of Mostar at age 14 to study at the local electrotechnical high school, without ever appearing for Turbina in an official match. Nevertheless, it was in Mostar that he first started taking football seriously as he went on to join Yugoslav First League side Velež Mostar academy at age 16, in part on the insistence of his brother Salem, who at the time played for the club as a striker. Halilhodžić then went on to play there at youth levels for the next two and a half years, and, upon signing a professional contract with the club, was sent on a six-month loan to second level side Neretva Metković to gain some experience.
Upon his return from loan, he quickly broke into the first-team squad in the 1972–73 season, forming a successful attacking partnership with Dušan Bajević and helping Velež finish the season as league runners-up behind Red Star Belgrade. Halilhodžić then went on to become one of the club's key players throughout the 1970s, appearing in a total of 376 matches and scoring 253 goals for the club (including 207 appearances and 103 goals in the Yugoslav First League) before leaving the country in September 1981 to join French side Nantes. Earlier that year, he was instrumental in winning the club's first major silverware, scoring two goals in their 3–2 Yugoslav Cup final win against Željezničar.
Nantes and PSG
At Nantes, he struggled in his first year although he quickly became a first-team regular, scoring 7 goals in 28 appearances in the 1981–82 season. He also got sent off in the first round of the UEFA Cup vs. Lokeren and received a 4 matches suspension from UEFA. The following season, he helped Nantes win their sixth French championship title and was the league's top scorer with 27 goals in 36 appearances. Halilhodžić went on to spend five years at La Beaujoire, appearing in a total of 163 league matches and scoring 92 goals for the club, also becoming league top scorer in the 1984–85 season with 28 goals.
In 1986, Halilhodžić decided to return to Mostar so he could spend more time with his father, who in the meantime fell seriously ill. While negotiating a new contract with Nantes, he intentionally asked for a salary bigger than anything the club could afford so that he could be released and return home. However, Francis Borelli, chairman of Paris Saint-Germain, stepped in and made him a "fantastic offer" to sign a one-year contract, with the intention of bringing Halilhodžić to Parc des Princes in order to strengthen the team for their upcoming 1986–87 European Cup campaign.
Halilhodžić accepted the offer and went on to appear for the club in the first 18 games of the 1986–87 season, scoring eight goals. However, his mother back home died during the season, and it was then that Halilhodžić decided to finally retire from active football.
Halilhodžić was capped 15 times for the Yugoslavia national team, scoring eight goals. After debuting as a full international in June 1976, he also appeared in a few matches for Yugoslavia under-21 team in 1978, helping them win the 1978 European Under-21 Championship where he claimed the Golden Player award for the best player in the tournament. Halilhodžić, who was 26 at the time, took advantage of the rule that allowed two players over the age of 21 to participate – hence him and Velimir Zajec (who had also already debuted for Yugoslavia full squad in 1977) were the two senior players brought in to strengthen the under-21 squad.
Spanning nine years, Halilhodžić's time with the national team was marked by frequently alternating ups and downs, periods of automatic inclusion followed by years-long omissions and frustrating substitute stints.
He made his debut as a substitute at UEFA Euro 1976 under head coach Biće Mladinić during the third place match versus Holland that Yugoslavia lost 2–3 at Zagreb's Maksimir Stadium. The 23-year-old Halilhodžić came on for Slaviša Žungul.
Over the next couple of years, he recorded two more substitute appearances – first in September 1976 in a friendly against Italy in Rome and in November 1977 at home against Spain (the infamously violent qualifying home loss at Belgrade's Marakana that ended Yugoslavia's chances of going to the 1978 World Cup).
Euro 80 qualifying
It was not until October 1978 that now 26-year-old Halilhodžić (riding high from his under-21 European championship win) got his first national team start – the opening Euro 80 qualifying clash versus Spain at home in Maksimir. With his first inclusion in the starting lineup by returning coach Mladinić also came his first goal – Yugoslavia was down 0–2 in the first half when Halilhodžić pulled one back in the 44th minute for 1–2, which ended up being the final score as Yugoslavia again lost at home to Spain. With his performance versus Spain, Halilhodžić's stock was somewhat raised and as a result he got to start the next qualifier away at Romania that Yugoslavia also lost, this time 2–3. The second consecutive qualifier loss prompted the end of Biće Mladinić's time as head coach – he got replaced by interim coach Dražan Jerković. Halilhodžić played the next friendly match under Jerković, scoring a hat-trick against Greece.
The resumption of Euro 1980 qualifying five months later in April 1979 saw the return of Miljan Miljanić to the Yugoslav bench as the FA's permanent solution at the head coaching position. Miljanić made major changes to the team he inherited from Mladinić with Halilhodžić one of the many casualties. The changes worked as Yugoslavia won its remaining four qualifiers (including a win away at Spain) as well as its two friendlies versus Italy and Argentina (none of the six matches featured Halilhodžić), but the opening two losses still proved too much to overcome as Plavi finished a point behind Spain in the group and did not progress to Euro 1980.
1982 World Cup
Halilhodžić made two substitute appearances at the 1982 World Cup: playing the last 15 minutes of the controversial group match versus Spain as well as the entire second half against Honduras. For the position of forward at the tournament, Miljanić preferred Safet Sušić, and in his later interviews, Halilhodžić often expressed dismay with head coach Miljanić for not giving him a more prominent role in the Yugoslav team at the 1982 World Cup.
On more than one occasion in the 2000s and 2010s, a retired Halilhodžić expressed bitterness over not getting a bigger part in the national team during the 1970s and 1980s, sarcastically citing "the fact my surname was too long for Belgrade scoreboards", thus insinuating that he feels the fact he is a Muslim may have been the reason for his modest playing time in the national team.
In July 1997, he signed with Moroccan side Raja Casablanca. In his first season with the club, he won the 1997 CAF Champions League in December 1997, and the 1997–98 Moroccan Championship in May 1998. These successes raised his international profile.
In October 1998, he returned to France to coach Lille, which at the time was struggling to survive in the French Division 2. His first season at the club ended with Lille finishing fourth, missing a promotion spot on goal difference. In the 1999–2000 season, Halilhodžić's club dominated the competition and finished top of table, 16 points clear of second-placed Guingamp, earning promotion to the French Ligue 1.
Lille's strong performances on the pitch continued the following season, and they finished third in the 2000–01 French Division 1, only seven points behind champions Nantes, thus qualifying for the 2001–02 UEFA Champions League for the first time in club's history. The following season, after knocking out Parma in qualifying, Lille finished third in group stage behind Deportivo de La Coruña and Manchester United, progressing to the 2001–02 UEFA Cup where they reached the Round of 16 before being knocked out by Borussia Dortmund on away goals.
During his time with Lille, Halilhodžić became very famous in France because of his professionalism and knowledge of tactics, and was nicknamed "Coach Vahid". After ending the 2001–02 season in fifth place, he decided to quit the club in June 2002, citing a lack of ambition of its directors.
On 14 October 2002, he was hired by another Ligue 1 club, Rennes, to save them from relegation after the club had picked up only eight points in the opening ten matches of the season under Philippe Bergeroo. Halilhodžić then managed to take the club to a 15th-place finish in the 20-club league, avoiding relegation zone by two points. After his successes with Lille and Rennes, he started to become one of the most sought after coaches in Europe, and whilst receiving offers from several German and Spanish clubs, he joined Paris Saint-Germain in June 2003.
During his first season at the helm of PSG, the club experienced one of the greatest and unexpectedly successful seasons in its history by winning the 2003–04 Coupe de France and arriving second in the 2003–04 Ligue 1, just three points behind Lyon, qualifying for the 2004–05 Champions League.
Halilhodžić's second season at the club, however, was not a success. From their opening Champions League group stage 0–3 home loss to Chelsea, to their domestic league struggling results, PSG never succeeded in replicating the winning form of the previous season. Going into the final round of Champions League group stage fixtures in December 2004, Halilhodžić's team still had a chance of advancing as beating CSKA Moscow at home would have seen PSG move on to the knockout stage. Even just a draw combined with group leaders Chelsea winning or drawing away at Porto would have ensured progress while a draw regardless of the other match outcome guaranteed at least a spot in the UEFA Cup round of 32. The club, however, suffered a disappointing 1–3 defeat at its home stadium, courtesy of a Sergei Semak hat-trick, which meant straight elimination from Europe. It was a bitter loss that even prompted club president Francis Graille to publicly relay his disappointment at the "lack of pride" shown by the squad, though remaining guardedly coy when explicitly asked about Halilhodžić's future at the club.
Now with only domestic competition to worry about, PSG began the calendar year 2005 looking to improve its league standing. Sluggish form continued, however, and on 8 February 2005, following a 0–2 defeat at home versus Lens that saw PSG drop to 12th spot in the 2004–05 Ligue 1 table, the club's management decided to sack Halilhodžić. He was replaced by the coach of the reserves team, Laurent Fournier, under whom the club was knocked out of 2004–05 Coupe de France by Auxerre in March and eventually finished ninth in the league.
On 2 October 2005, Halilhodžić was signed by Turkish Süper Lig side Trabzonspor. Although he led the club to fourth place in the 2005–06 Süper Lig, just behind Istanbul's "Big Three", thus qualifying for the 2006–07 UEFA Cup, Halilhodžić decided to leave Turkey in June 2006 after just one season with the club.
In May 2008, Halilhodžić was hired to train the Ivory Coast national team, captained by Didier Drogba and including the likes of Yaya and Kolo Touré, Salomon Kalou, Emmanuel Eboué and the young Gervinho. In a two-year unbeaten run in African qualifiers, the team qualified for both the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Angola and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. In January 2010 in the quarter-finals of the continental championship against Algeria, however, the Ivory Coast were eliminated after Madjid Bougherra scored a 2–2 equaliser in injury time, with Hameur Bouazza adding Algeria's third goal in the opening minutes of extra time.
The defeat came as a huge disappointment for many Ivorians, for whom the national football team played a central social role and a source of national pride and unity, especially as the country was recovering from the 2002–07 civil war and preparing for its first post-war elections in October that year. As a consequence, Halilhodžić was fired on 27 February 2010, less than four months before the 2010 World Cup finals tournament in South Africa.
Back in Europe, Halilhodžić was announced as the new coach of Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb on 16 August 2010, signing a two-and-a-half-year-long contract. He came in to replace club legend Velimir Zajec, who had been fired after being knocked in Champions League qualifying on penalties against Moldovan club Sheriff Tiraspol. Although this meant the club had been eliminated from the Champions League, Dinamo still qualified for the 2010–11 UEFA Europa League, and Halilhodžić was tasked with successfully guiding Dinamo's European campaign while continuing their dominance in the national championship.
Club fans immediately took to Halilhodžić, as Dinamo started playing an attractive and a more attacking style of football. On 16 September, exactly one month after signing his contract, he led Dinamo to a somewhat improbable 2–0 victory over Spanish side Villarreal at the start of the group stage. Despite some encouraging results early in the season, however, Dinamo eventually failed to progress past the group stage, losing the deciding match in December at home against Greek club PAOK. Despite the setback, Halilhodžić stayed on due to support of both the fans and club management.
In the 2010–11 Croatian First League the club was a runaway leader without any real competition. Towards the end of the season, issues arose over the renegotiation of terms of his contract, and on 6 May 2011 he abruptly left the club following a vicious shouting incident with Dinamo's president Zdravko Mamić in the team dressing room during half-time of the league match versus Inter Zaprešić at Maksimir.
On 22 June 2011, the Algerian Football Federation announced that Halilhodžić would take over the vacant Algeria national team manager position starting on 1 July. On 2 July, the deal was made official with Halilhodžić signing a three-year contract. He successfully led Algeria through the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualification and in preparation for the finals tournament to be held in January 2013 in South Africa, the team invited Bosnia and Herzegovina (Halilhodžić's country of birth) for a friendly match in November 2012. Algeria lost 0–1 in injury time on a rainy night in Algiers.
Despite arriving at the final tournament with plenty of confidence and with the emergence of young stars Islam Slimani and El Arbi Hillel Soudani, as well as the addition to the squad of talented Valencia winger Sofiane Feghouli, Algeria finished bottom of their group, losing their opening two matches to Tunisia and Togo without scoring a single goal. Although the result was widely regarded as a disappointment, the Algerian Football Federation decided to keep Halilhodžić in charge and allow the team to gain more experience.
Now focusing on the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, Algeria under Halilhodžić secured a spot at the finals tournament on 19 November 2013 having beaten the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations runners-up Burkina Faso in a two-legged tie on away goals rule following a 3–3 aggregate score in the African qualifying play-offs. This was only the fourth time the country qualified for a World Cup in 32 years.
Algeria's performance at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was a significant surprise as they beat South Korea 4–2 and drew with Russia 1–1 to progress past the group stage for the first time in the team's history. In the round of 16, Les Fennecs had to face a very strong Germany side. Although Algeria put up a very spirited resistance, they lost the game after a goalless 90 minutes, followed by extra time in which Germany scored twice through André Schürrle and Mesut Özil, with substitute Abdelmoumene Djabou pulling back one in the dying moments of the game to make it 1–2. Germany later went on to deliver a historic 7–1 thrashing of hosts Brazil and win their fourth World Cup title.
Despite the exit, Algeria's performance was the team's biggest success in history and Halilhodžić was frequently praised for his strategic counter-attacking tactics, calm yet motivating influence on the players, and skillful game management. Although he was offered a contract extension after the tournament, on 7 July 2014 he left the team in tears.
On 7 March 2015, it was reported that Halilhodžić would take over as the Japan national team's new manager. He was officially appointed on 12 March, replacing Javier Aguirre, who had been sacked over his involvement in a 2011 match-fixing investigation in Spain. Prior to this appointment, Halilhodžić was one of the shortlisted candidates for managing Bosnia and Herzegovina, but he rejected that offer after having two meetings with the Bosnian Football Association. In June 2016, Halilhodžić's Japan hosted Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 2016 Kirin Cup, losing 1–2.
In Sept 2016, the 2018 World Cup qualifying final round was kicked off. Six teams including Japan, Saudi Arabia and Australia scramble for two direct qualifying spots. In the first match Japan was unexpectedly beaten 1–2 by UAE because of a wrongly disallowed Japanese goal. Nevertheless, the Japanese media called questions on his selection of squad.
Since then, media criticism of his strategy and his selection of squad has haunted him throughout his office. He abandoned the decade-long Japanese traditional playing style of short passes, instead, he emphasized intense fighting for the ball (as he called it in French, "duel") and quick pace football. His most controversial call was to drop Keisuke Honda (AC Milan), Shinji Kagawa (Dortmund) and Shinji Okazaki (Leicester). Another controversial call was to put Hotaru Yamaguchi, a player in the domestic second division, to his starting lineup.
Finishing the group with 6 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses with 7 conceded goals, Japan's performance was inconsistent, yet it secured crucial victories at critical moments to earn itself the top spot. The two critical moments was first, winning 2–1 against Saudi Arabia in November 2016 to end the first half of the group matches in the first place; second, beating Australia 2–0 in August 2017 to secure top spot and qualified to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It is at these two moments the Japanese media temporarily admitted Halilhodžić is right on his strategy and his selection of squad. Yet they were called into questions once again after Japan's poor performance in the international friendlies in October and November against Haiti, Brazil and Belgium.
In December, Halilhodžić summoned his second and third team to 2017 East Asian Cup. Half of the team were uncapped. This unconventional inexperienced Japan team lost to South Korea 1–4. The Japanese media saw this as a humiliating defeat. Without realizing the Japan–South Korea football rivalry, Halilhodžić comments "I was amazed by South Korea's explosiveness of power, technique and control of the game. South Korea dominated us in every way." His comments made himself under siege by the Japanese media for weeks, ultimately resulting in his dismissal, with former international Akira Nishino replacing him. JFA President Kozo Tashima told reporters at a news conference, that poor results and a lack of “communication and trust” with the players as the reasons for Halilhodžić's dismissal.
Halilhodžić's spiky personality frequently ruffled feathers after arriving in Japan to take over from Javier Aguirre in March 2015, and rumors of his impending dismissal swirled throughout his three-year reign. On 24 May 2018, Halilhodžić launched a lawsuit against the JFA and its president Kozo Tashima.
In July 2018, he was on a 4-man shortlist for the vacant Egyptian national team manager job.
In October 2018, Halilhodžić became the new manager of FC Nantes, a club he had played for as a striker. His first win came on 22 October when Nantes beat Toulouse 4–0 at the Stade de la Beaujoire.
On 5 May 2019, Nantes beat Dijon at home 3–0 and Halilhodžić made a club record, winning five Ligue 1 matches in a row, a venture which was not done in over 18 years in the club. Halilhodžić's Nantes beat Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain, Amiens, Marseille and at the end Dijon to capture that record.
In August 2019, it was confirmed that Halilhodžić would take over as the Morocco national team's new manager. His first win came on 10 September when Moroccan beat Niger 1–0 at the Stade de Marrakech.
During the Bosnian War in 1992, Halilhodžić was wounded in Mostar but recovered within a few months. He left Mostar in May 1993 due to threats received from the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) as the armed conflict between Bosniaks and Croats escalated in Herzegovina. Following his departure, his house was looted and burned down.
On 23 July 2004, during his tenure as the manager of PSG, Halilhodžić received Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur of the French Republic. Halilhodžić is married and has two children. His primary residence is in Lille, where his family lives. He speaks Bosnian and French, the result of spending most of his time in France.
- Scores and results table. Yugoslavia's goal tally first.
|1||4 October 1978||Stadion Maksimir, Zagreb, Yugoslavia||Spain||1–2||1–2||UEFA Euro 1980 qualifying|
|2||15 November 1978||Gradski Stadion, Skopje, Yugoslavia||Greece||1–1||4–1||Friendly|
|4||25 March 1981||Gradski Stadion, Subotica, Yugoslavia||Bulgaria||1–0||2–1||Friendly|
|5||29 April 1981||Stadion Poljud, Split, Yugoslavia||Greece||2–0||5–1||1982 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|6||21 November 1981||Karađorđe Stadium, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia||Luxembourg||1–0||5–0||1982 FIFA World Cup qualification|
- As of 30 March 2021
|Raja Casablanca||1 October 1997||30 June 1998||45||28||14||3||62.22|
|Lille||1 September 1998||30 May 2002||158||79||40||39||50.00|
|Rennes||14 October 2002||30 June 2003||34||13||8||13||38.24|
|Paris Saint-Germain||1 July 2003||8 February 2005||80||37||24||19||46.25|
|Trabzonspor||7 October 2005||30 May 2006||30||15||5||10||50.00|
|Al-Ittihad||5 June 2006||1 August 2006||2||1||0||1||50.00|
|Ivory Coast||13 May 2008||27 February 2010||21||10||9||2||47.62|
|Dinamo Zagreb||16 August 2010||24 May 2011||32||24||4||4||75.00|
|Algeria||22 June 2011||7 July 2014||30||18||5||7||60.00|
|Trabzonspor||14 July 2014||10 November 2014||12||3||7||2||25.00|
|Japan||12 March 2015||9 April 2018||38||21||9||8||55.26|
|Nantes||2 October 2018||2 August 2019||37||17||6||14||45.95|
|Morocco||15 August 2019||Present||12||6||5||1||50.00|
- UEFA European Under-21 Championship Golden Player: 1978
- French Ligue 1 Foreign Player of the Year: 1984, 1985
- CAF Champions League: 1997
- Botola: 1997–98
- CAF Super Cup runner-up: 1998
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- Video on YouTube
- Vahid Halilhodžić u Angoli "Ne bojim se, proživio sam gore u ratu u Mostaru"
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