By Aleksandar Bošković
The departure of Zoran Filipovic has seen Slavoljub Muslin return to the helm of UEFA Cup contenders FK Crvena Zvezda.
Filipovic parted company with the Belgrade giants after the club ended the season without a trophy for the first time in five years. The 51-year-old Muslin has been handed a two-year contract with the express intention of returning the club to the top in Serbia and Montenegro.
Crvena Zvezda man
Muslin is a Crvena Zvezda man through and through, having played 302 matches for the club, while also picking up 32 caps for Yugoslavia. As a coach he began his career with FC Girondins de Bordeaux in France, where he helped develop the career of Zinedine Zidane, before taking charge of Crvena Zvezda in September 1999.
Muslin led the club to two championships and one Yugoslavian Cup before ending his enure in 2001 after a disagreement with club officials. He went on to lead PFC Levski Sofia to the Bulgarian title in 2002 but is now back at the club with which he is most associated, preparing for the new season.
uefa.com: What does it mean to you to return to Crvena Zvezda?
Slavoljub Muslin: They took me from the streets of Belgrade in the mid-1970s and made a player and a man out of me. I repaid them a lot with over 300 matches as a player but I think I can do even more now as a coach.
uefa.com: How are you going to challenge FK Partizan's new-found dominance?
Muslin: We need to work much harder. I have never given much thought about our neighbours. That will not change now. Hard-headedness is not my motive, only a wish to prosper.
uefa.com: Does the fact that Lothar Matthäus is the coach of Partizan inspire you or burden you?
Muslin: Neither. I do not care who is the coach of Partizan or any other club. In the past I also had to face Ljubiša Tumbaković, the man who has won most trophies in this country. I am not afraid of challenges or names. I believe in myself, my vision and my team.
uefa.com: What do you think of the Crvena Zvezda squad?
Muslin: I coached more than 90 per cent of them in 2001. They are good boys who know how to play and they want to learn. We need reinforcements in midfield after captain Ivan Gvozdenović left and also in attack, where we have lost striker Mihajlo Pjanović. I need players of their calibre and I will find them. I don't think about big names from abroad and it is not the club's policy. We have great potential and it needs to be used. It would be all right to sell one of the top players because the club need to cover their financial needs, but we need to keep the stability of the team. I was watching one player from Bulgaria while training Levski. I will not reveal his name though!
uefa.com: You are not only going to be coach but sports director too. What is the thinking behind this?
Muslin: I think it is a good approach. The role of a coach is not only to speak ahead of an important game. I want to form my team and tactics and choose my signings. Greater responsibility for the coach can only be useful for everyone.
uefa.com: What is your goal for the new season?
Muslin: When you are coach of a giant like Zvezda, then wanting to win a domestic double is normal. The title and Champions League participation are imperative next season. It will be a tiring year but the championship has been reduced to 16 clubs and this will surely boost quality. In the UEFA Cup we will try and reach at least the third round. This would be a huge success.
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