Montenegro indebted to brilliant Savićević

Dejan Savićević helped put Montenegro on the map with his exploits for AC Milan in the 90s and he is now doing the same as its FA president.

Dejan Savićević celebrates a goal for Milan
Dejan Savićević celebrates a goal for Milan ©Getty Images

To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, each national association was asked to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. The Football Federation of Montenegro (FSCG) was not formed then, but has subsequently selected Dejan Savićević as the country's Golden Player.

Montenegro might be one of the smallest states in Europe, but it has enjoyed high-profile representation in the world of football.

The country has produced big names such as Predrag Mijatović, who helped Real Madrid CF win the UEFA Champions League in 1998, and AS Roma's Mirko Vučinić, one of the best attackers in Serie A in recent years. But, with deserved respect to both of them, one player stands above everybody else where Montenegrin football is concerned. Ask who is the most beloved player in the nation's history, and you will hear only one name – Dejan Savićević.

Nicknamed 'The Genius', a moniker acquired from the Italian press during his wonderful stay with AC Milan, Savićević was the most famous Montenegrin 'export' of the 1990s. The playmaker's skills and successes drew the world's attention to our small country for the first time during that difficult period.

Savićević was born on 15 September 1966 in Podgorica. He started his career in OFK Titograd's youth team, where he was spotted by the biggest Montenegrin club, FK Budućnost Podgorica. His debut there came when he was 16, and he soon emerged as one of the most gifted players in a strong Yugoslav league.

In 1988 Savićević left Budućnost for FK Crvena Zvezda. After a year's military service, he became one of the key players in that fantastic team from the 'Marakana' who won three consecutive league titles and two national cups. The pinnacle of their achievement arrived in May 1991 with their capture of the European Champion Clubs' Cup, via a penalty shoot-out victory over Olympique de Marseille in Bari.

Savićević's team-mates included Robert Prosinečki, Vladimir Jugović, Sinisa Mihajlović and Darko Pančev, and they then became world champions by winning the European/South American Cup against CSD Colo Colo of Chile. Savićević finished second to Jean-Pierre Papin in the voting for that year's Ballon d'Or, with the same number of points as Pančev and German midfielder Lothar Matthäus.

In summer 1992 Savićević left Belgrade, bound for AC Milan. He had limited playing time during his first season under coach Fabio Capello, largely because of the rule then allowing three foreigners per team in Serie A. Yet despite only making ten appearances, he scored four goals in Milan's successful title defence.

The 1993/94 campaign was a different story, Savićević establishing himself as one of the most important players in Capello's world-class team. With his tactical knowledge, technique and flashes of genius, Savićević helped the Rossoneri to land another league title and, moreover, win the biggest prize of all – the UEFA Champions League.

In the final against Johan Cruyff's FC Barcelona – the so-called 'Dream Team' – Savićević produced one of the most brilliant performances of his career. He proved an unsolvable enigma for his opponents on that Athens evening, providing an assist for Daniele Massaro's opening goal and scoring Milan's third with a work-of-art lob from outside the penalty box. Milan crushed Barcelona 4-0 and Savićević established himself as one of the most talented No10s in the club's history.

He subsequently helped the Rossoneri win one more Scudetto and reach another UEFA Champions League final before leaving San Siro in summer 1998. After a six-month break for injury problems, Savićević returned briefly to Crvena Zvezda where he played three games in a championship interrupted by conflict in Yugoslavia. The next summer he joined SK Rapid Wien where he spent the last two seasons of his career.

Despite becoming a regular for Yugoslavia at 20, Savićević never had a real opportunity to blossom on the international stage. Because of sanctions against Yugoslavia, an entire generation of world-class players missed EURO '92, as well as the 1994 FIFA World Cup and EURO '96 subsequently. Savićević's biggest success with Yugoslavia had come when he was 23 and made three appearances for the team that reached the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals, where they lost on penalties to Argentina. He was in his thirties by the time he appeared at the 1998 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000.

In May 2001, Savićević became a member of the head coaches' committee of Serbia and Montenegro; a year later he was national coach outright yet he failed to emulate the success of his playing career. As president of the Football Federation of Montenegro (FSCG), however, he has made a notable impact. After Montenegro gained independence in 2006, Savićević used all of his knowledge and influence to help with the process of affiliation to UEFA and FIFA, and – moreover – to help the FSCG become a leader for sport in the fledgling country and a positive example of development and progress.

Last updated: 4 February 2011