The eighth edition of the Montenegrin First League will be unusual for one particular reason: FK Budućnost Podgorica are not even considered among the title favourites.
Budućnost have won two top-flight crowns and have been runners-up on five occasions, but things have changed at the capital club this summer. Financial difficulties prompted the appointment of a new board in order to "stabilise finances and start a new era" according to president Danilo Šarkić. He explained: "We have created a four-year plan and put everything down on paper. This season we aim to solve our financial problems, because without financial stability we can't do anything in the future."
While new management will seek to reduce Budućnost's accumulated debt, newly appointed sporting director Nikola Jovanović – formerly a defender for FK Crvena zvezda, Manchester United FC and Budućnost – has been charged with the difficult job of reconstructing the team. Experienced players such as striker Srdjan Radonjić and defender Mitar Peković, as well as young talents like Stefan Mugoša and Marko Vukčević, have all left. Coach Radisav Dragićević also departed to join the Montenegro national team staff, with former assistant Nenad Vukčević filling the void.
"I knew what was happening and what kind of problems I would face when I agreed to become a board member," said Jovanović, who fulfilled a similar role when NK Domžale went from the second tier to the top-flight championship in four years, between 2003 and 2007. "I am full of optimism because I know what kind of potential Budućnost have.
"Firstly, we must go back to our roots – young players from our academy must be treated as well as possible and get the chance to play in the first team, even aged 17 or 18. I was about that age when I started – Dejan Savićević and Predrag Mijatović were the same. All famous Budućnost players joined the senior setup very early, that's one of the reasons they became so good."
Budućnost currently have just one player in their squad over the age of 23. Jovanović is realistic, conceding that talent might not be enough to overcome more experienced opponents. "I know that, but that's why we don't expect results immediately," the 60-year-old said. "Results weren't a problem in the past; the problem was long-term strategy. Coaches and players came and went, meaning no one left a special mark on the club. We want to bring back the days when it was an honour for every Montenegrin player to play for Budućnost."
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