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Changing fortunes for big names

Published: Tuesday 25 January 2005, 12.28CET
Monthly review: NK Maribor and NK Olimpija Ljubljana have been in the news for quite different reasons. features

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Published: Tuesday 25 January 2005, 12.28CET

Changing fortunes for big names

Monthly review: NK Maribor and NK Olimpija Ljubljana have been in the news for quite different reasons.
By Martin Pavcnik

Despite dominating the first half of the Slovenian First League season and establishing a ten-point advantage in the standings by the winter break, NK Gorica have not been the main source of news in the country over the past month.

Zahovic negotiations
Instead NK Maribor, who currently occupy fifth place, 13 points behind the leaders, and NK Olimpija Ljubljana have dominated the headlines. Maribor have been in negotiations with Slovenia's top international goalscorer, Zlatko Zahovic, who left Portuguese SuperLiga side SL Benfica by mutual consent earlier in January.

'Not for the money'
The 33-year-old playmaker comes from Maribor but has never represented his local club. Zahovic has a number of other options but it appears he favours a move back home. "You do not come to play for Maribor for the money," he said.

'Big possibility'
For their part, the team have announced they are in talks with the player and remain hopeful of securing Zahovic's signature, saying in a press release: "If Zahovic does not sign this year, it is a big possibility he will do so next year. The final decision should be known soon, probably by the end of the month."

Financial problems
Olimpija, meanwhile, have suffered increasingly from financial problems over the last few years, and the club's mounting debts have forced the issue in recent weeks. Olimpija, who are currently third, eleven points behind Gorica, have lost several players to other Slovenian sides and are rumoured to be preparing to announce their withdrawal from the league.

Famous name
One possible solution is for the club to receive financial help from the city of Ljubljana, but that looks unlikely and the most likely outcome would have the team starting again in a lower division. Olimpija's demise would be a significant setback for Slovenian football, as they were the country's most consistent performer when Slovenia was part of the former Yugoslavia and won the first four league titles after independence was granted in 1991.

Last updated: 25/01/05 15.59CET

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