Dejan Savicevic – The showman from Montenegro whose favourite team-mate was the ball
With his half-beat touches of the ball, the two-time European Cup winner danced to nobody’s rhythm but his own
HE seems to have a permanent place on the periphery of the discussions around the great Milan sides of the 1990s. But the periphery is precisely where Dejan Savicevic did most of his best work.
The substance of Maldini, Baresi, Gullit and Van Basten was not without style, but the frequently - and often unfairly - disposable showman from Montenegro tipped his balance very much the opposite way.
To get away with that - especially under Fabio Capello at Milan - Savicevic had a well-developed knack for calm, understated rebellion. His six nurturing seasons with his local club Buducnost, in what is now Podgorica, would have been three or four if the magnetic pull of Red Star Belgrade had had its way, but a 20-year-old Savicevic had already developed a bluntly honest streak.
“First of all, I don't want to do something stupid...I'm fully conscious of the fact that leaving your natural setting too early can mess up a young player's career. Money is still not my main motivation. The game itself is. To have the fans admire me and give me adulation. To cheer for me. That's still not out of my system, I still like that applause noise when I pull off a good dribble and score.
After a year of pondering - and dribbling, and scoring - Savicevic chose the reigning champions Red Star over their Belgrade rivals Partizan. At 21, he slotted in nicely between the established genius of Dragan Stojkovic, 23, and the precocious 19-year-old Robert Prosinecki.
Red Star’s latest group of players were now aiming to improve upon three European Cup quarter-finals in the previous eight seasons. Savicevic, ruled out of their unsuccessful league title defence thanks to his mandatory national service with the Yugoslav People's Army, was at least allowed to present himself for European matches. His debut, a formality of a first-round second leg against Dundalk, was marked with a sharp turn and goal from 25 yards.
In the second round: Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan. Savicevic - more of a full-time soldier than a professional footballer - lasted barely an hour at the San Siro, but a moment of Stojkovic magic earned a 1-1 draw to take back to the warmly welcoming Marakana in Belgrade.
Just after half-time, Stojkovic supplied Savicevic in the box. The finish - just about perceptible through the mid-November gloom - arrowed into the top corner.
Milan then had Pietro Paolo Virdis sent off. In this Sliding Doors moment in European football history, they were in big trouble, only for visibility to drop to just about zero. The match was abandoned just after the hour mark, Savicevic’s biggest career moment to date had been for nothing, and they would try again the following afternoon.
A mere 18 hours’ rest suited Milan’s squad - “they were monsters physically”, Stojkovic recalled to the BBC in 2013 - rather better than Red Star’s. Running on fumes, Savicevic supplied his teammate with a beautiful pass to cancel out Marco van Basten’s opener in the first half, only to find his tank empty in the penalty shootout.
That was Stojkovic’s cue to fly the nest - joining Marseille for £5.5m - giving Savicevic and Prosinecki a little more breathing space in the Red Star midfield. The league title was snatched back in emphatic style in 1990, the first of three in a row with Savicevic pulling his share of the strings.
More importantly, their European destiny was fulfilled. Grasshoppers, Rangers, Dynamo Dresden and Bayern Munich were all dispensed with along the way in 1990/91, with Savicevic offering an occasional glimpse of his ball-on-a-string penchant for gliding through defences.
The final against Marseille in Bari was an infamously dour affair - Red Star set up camp against the counter-attacking threat of Chris Waddle, Abedi Pele and Jean-Pierre Papin - and again penalties were needed.
Marseille’s big-game nous gave way to the youthful upstarts’ confidence from the spot: at that time all drawn league games in the Yugoslav top flight were decided by shootouts, and Red Star had won four out of six that season. Savicevic, taken off late on in normal time, was spared the task of facing his demons from 1988, but Darko Pancev, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Prosinecki were more than capable in his stead. Stojkovic, on the other hand, point-blank refused to take a penalty against the club who considered him a living legend.
With the European Cup came the obligatory roadshow. Red Star might have fancied themselves over two legs against Alex Ferguson’s pre-Premier League Manchester United side but, with war breaking out back home, they headed to Old Trafford for a one-off encounter. The records might show that a single Brian McClair goal decided matters, but the match is largely remembered for one of those semi-mythical performances that are muttered about by people of a certain age, ones that seem to get even better with every re-telling.
Savicevic had just turned 25 - already sporting the Platini-esque hairline of a twilight-years playmaker - and clearly considered his Red Star schooling complete. To confirm he was ready to take a step up to an elite league, he gave future Milan derby adversary Paul Ince a thorough chasing.
A few weeks later, Red Star were in Tokyo for the annual clash of footballing cultures, the Intercontinental Cup. Chile’s Colo Colo weren’t expected to put up much of a fight, and Savicevic darted in from the right to set up Vladimir Jugovic for the opener...only to be sent off shortly before half-time for violent conduct.
That indiscretion came too late to scupper Savicevic’s podium finish in 1991’s Ballon d’Or, edging out teammate Pancev and Lothar Matthaus - the World Player of the Year - to secure a distant second place behind Papin.
That might have been as good as it got for Savicevic’s reputation among his peers (he only troubled the top 10 once more, in 1994) but it was more than enough to convince Milan - the team whose dynasty he almost terminated four years earlier - to bring him to Serie A. The fee was huge - around £9m - but he wasn’t even the headline arrival in Silvio Berlusconi’s astonishing summer spending spree, in which Milan broke the world transfer record twice.
He made an instant impression, with La Repubblica claiming he’d left his captain Franco Baresi on the floor with a piece of skill in one of his first training sessions, earning a round of applause from his new teammates. Despite being one of six stellar foreign imports in Capello’s squad - of which only three could play at any time - Savicevic was relaxed about his prospects of regular football: “I am convinced we will all have the space to find satisfaction.”
As a Berlusconi vanity signing, he found it difficult to convince Capello - a manager with microscopically short shrift for nonsense - that his intermittent genius should be accommodated. Gianluigi Lentini, the most expensive player in world football, and trusted Capello lieutenant Roberto Donadoni were frequently preferred in the attacking midfield roles - leaving Savicevic, Ruud Gullit and Zvonimir Boban to take it in turn from the bench.
1992/93 turned out to be a frustrating non-event for Savicevic, despite Milan retaining their Serie A title and getting to another European Cup final, a defeat to Marseille for which he didn’t even make the bench. Capello overlooked him again for the Intercontinental Cup (after scandal-ridden Marseille were banned from taking part) and Milan lost 3-2 to Sao Paulo.
In the summer of 1993, though, footballing fate fell in Savicevic’s favour. Lentini was involved in a serious car crash that effectively ended his career and Gullit, irritated by being sidelined by Capello, left for Sampdoria. That yard of space was all that Savicevic needed to start entertaining again, starting with the Supercoppa Italiana against Torino, held that year in Washington, D.C.
Savicevic didn’t score a single goal in domestic competition that season, a glaring anomaly which he mitigated with some exceptional dribbling (he later declared that his favourite ever teammate was “the ball”). Gullit’s return to the San Siro with Sampdoria was upstaged by what Le Repubblica described as Savicevic’s “catwalk”.
“I did not want to make fun of them”, he said after spending the last 10 minutes of Milan’s 1-0 win making personally sure the ball wasn’t given away. Having drawn a yellow card from his marker Pietro Vierchowod, Milan’s new no.10 proceeded to make substitute Fausto Salsano’s afternoon a misery on the halfway line.
Savicevic was edging his way into Capello’s European plans, too. Having played just once in Milan’s opening five games of their Champions League campaign, he burst into life in a 3-0 win over Porto at the San Siro, creating all three goals with some needle-and-thread passing from his midfield pocket. He then scored home and away against Werder Bremen as Milan eased into the semi-finals. Savicevic’s defining moment was getting closer.
The nickname of “Il Genio” had been bestowed on Savicevic by Gazzetta dello Sport’s Germano Bovolenta, for which he had been mocked by his press-box colleagues as the would-be genius struggled to earn a regular place in Capello’s side. Berlusconi, too, remained an unwavering supporter, even if he couldn’t interfere with team selection.
Before the Champions League final against Barcelona in Athens, Savicevic remembers, Berlusconi addressed the Milan squad at their training camp. “He was already heading for the exit, then suddenly turned and spoke to me almost solemnly: ‘if you’re a genius, show yourself tomorrow.’ All the players, trainers and journalists heard that.”
Preferred to Papin in Capello’s starting lineup, Savicevic took barely 20 minutes to fulfil the president’s request. He plucked the ball out of the sky, skipped inside Miguel Angel Nadal and raced into the area. Stumbling under a half-challenge from Pep Guardiola, he scooped the ball left to Daniele Massaro to tap home the opener.
He had a hand in Massaro’s second, too, in first-half injury time, but Savicevic’s next intervention - just two minutes into the second half - was the moment a special win turned into a historic rout. Nadal was again his victim and, soon enough, so was Andoni Zubizarreta.
The ball bounced invitingly off the Olympic Stadium turf. Savicevic’s one-track mind was already made up and his stride unbroken before he calculated a perfectly-weighted side-footed lob over the head of the Barcelona goalkeeper, who reacted to the humiliation by punting the ball into the night sky to get it as far away as possible. Capello’s immediate reaction is not recorded - he wasn’t one to get carried away, even at 3-0 - but the vindicated Bovolenta “shone with happiness”, Savicevic says.
At 28, he might have finally thought he had earned Capello’s trust, even with the impending return of Gullit from his restorative season at Sampdoria. The two started together against Genoa on the opening day of the 1994/95 season, and Savicevic was at his infuriating best - for both opposition defenders and any teammates who naively expected a simple pass.
That virtuosity might have entertained the San Siro - especially in the posh seats - but Capello wasn’t having any of it: Savicevic appeared in just two of Milan’s next 11 league games.
As always, there were fleeting moments of what Savicevic ought to have been doing on a weekly basis. Four goals were rifled past Bari in a 5-3 win in January, at the same stadium in which he had lifted the European Cup less than four years earlier with Red Star. Then, less than 12 months after his unforgettable moment in the Champions League final, Savicevic’s endless struggles under Capello were summed up perfectly.
Two outstanding displays home and away against Paris Saint-Germain in the 1994/95 semi-finals suggested that Savicevic was again ready to peak at the right time for Milan’s season climax...
...only for him to be left out of the final against Ajax, despite insisting to Capello that he was fully fit to play.
After all those false dawns and unceremonious omissions - albeit with the eternal blessing of Berlusconi - it’s perhaps surprising that Savicevic chose to stick it out at the San Siro until well into his thirties. Milan collapsed after Capello left for Real Madrid in 1996, languishing in mid-table for two seasons, and Savicevic was apparently content with having more regular chances to confuse Serie A defenders with his half-beat touches of the ball.
“So what's better,” the 20-year-old Savicevic had once wondered, “to be a talent and the best player no-one sees or to be prudent and make sure I always play on the right stage, even if I'm not the best?”
Whether he ultimately followed his own advice is open to debate, but - in those all-too-rare moments when he was granted centre-stage - Dejan Savicevic danced to nobody’s rhythm but his own.
MILUTINAC doktor, fudbaler i antifašista - Dokumentarni Film
Milutin Ivković Milutinac (Beograd, 3. mart 1906 — Jajinci, 25. maj 1943) je bio jugoslovenski fudbaler, lekar i antifašista. Rođen je u Beogradu od oca Jovana, pukovnika, i majke Mile, ćerke vojvode Radomira Putnika. Fudbal je počeo da igra u omladinskoj ekipi beogradske Jugoslavije. Veoma brzo je postao prvotimac i za svoj klub je od 1922. do 1929. odigrao 235 utakmica. Pred kraj karijere je prešao u BASK. Od 1925. do 1934. godine odigrao je 40 utakmica za reprezentaciju Jugoslavije, sa kojom je učestvovao na Devetim Olimpijskim igrama u Amsterdamu, 1928. i na Jedanaestim Olimpijskim igrama u Berlinu 1936. godine. Učestvovao je i na Svetskom prvenstvu 1930. u Montevideu. Debitovao je 28. oktobra 1925. u prijateljskoj utakmici protiv Čehoslovačke (0-7) u Pragu, a poslednju utakmicu u dresu nacionalnog tima odigrao je 16. decembra 1934. protiv Francuske (2-3) u Parizu. Diplomirao je na Medicinskom fakultetu u Beogradu 1934. godine, i posle odsluženja vojnog roka otvorio je svoju ordinaciju u Knez Mihailovoj 5 gde je radio kao lekar dermatolog. Na inicijativu Saveza komunističke omladine Jugoslavije (SKOJ) bio je jedan od organizatora bojkota Olimpijskih igara u Berlinu 1936. godine. Bio je i glavni urednik časopisa „Mladost“, koji je takođe pokrenut na inicijativu SKOJ-a. Na tom mestu je bio od juna 1938. pa sve dok vlasti Kraljevine Jugoslavije nisu zabranile taj časopis. Posle okupacije Jugoslavije, 1941. godine, sarađivao je sa narodnooslobodilačkim pokretom. Zbog svoje povezanosti sa radničkim pokretom i Komunističkom partijom više puta je hapšen i proganjan. Na fudbalskom terenu se poslednji put pojavio 6. maja 1943, na molbu svojih drugova, prilikom proslave 40 godina postojanja BASK-a. Nedugo posle toga, 24. maja 1943. u 23:45 je uhapšen od strane Gestapoa i zatvoren u logor na Banjici. Streljan je narednog jutra u Jajincima zbog komunističke delatnosti. Fudbalski savez Srbije postavio je 1951. godine spomen-ploču na stadionu JNA, a jedna ulica pored stadiona nosi njegovo ime. Njegova bista pored stadiona Stadiona Partizana postavljena je 1970. godine, bila je visoka 70 centimetara, zajedno sa postoljem 217 centimetara i bila je delo vajara Slavoljuba Vave Stankovića. Ukradena je sa postamenta 2012. godine. Posle pisanja „Politike“ o tome, zbog velikog interesovanja „Politika“ je pokrenula akciju „Vratimo spomenik Milutincu“ u martu 2013. godine. Spomenik je postavljen u maju 2013. godine... Milutin Ivković Milutinac. Beograd. SR Srbija. Jugoslavija. Fudbal. Nogomet. Jugoslovenska fudbalska reprezentacija. Antifašista. Antifasizam. Narodnooslobodilačka borba (NOB) ili Oslobodilački rat naroda Jugoslavije. Jugoslavija. SFRJ. Dokumentarni Film... Dokumentarac... Ceo Film... Cijeli Film...