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Slaven Bilic


Slaven Bilic

Slaven Bilić
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Slaven Bilić (pronounced [slâʋen bǐːlit͡ɕ]; born 11 September 1968) is a former Croatian footballer, currently managing Beşiktaş in Turkish Süper Lig. He started playing in 1988 for his hometown club Hajduk Split and later had successful foreign spells with Karlsruher SC in Germany, and West Ham United and Everton in England before retiring from active football in 2001. At national level, Bilić served as one of Croatia's most consistent defenders during the tenure of coach Miroslav Blažević, earning 44 caps between 1992 and 1999 and playing in UEFA Euro 1996 and the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

Following his playing retirement in 2001 at Hajduk Split, Bilić immediately turned to coaching, his first job being a five-month stint at Hajduk's helm in the latter stage of the 2001–02 season. Between 2004 and 2006 he managed Croatia under-21 football team, before taking over the senior national side from Zlatko Kranjčar in August 2006.

Credited with successfully overseeing the introduction of a series of young players from the under-21 squad to the senior side, Bilić led the team to the 2008 European championship where they reached the quarter-finals. In spite the fact that under Bilić's tenure Croatia failed to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, his contract with the Croatian Football Federation was extended in 2009. He then went on to qualify for the 2012 European championship, his second managerial success and major tournament appearance with Croatia. Upon his formal departure, Bilić was praised for his long-standing service to the national side. Domestic media outlet labelled him as Croatia's only manager to depart on such positive terms and credited him for his strong revival of the national side during his six-year tenure.[1]

On 10 May 2012, Bilić confirmed that he would step down after the tournament.[2] On 14 May 2012, it was confirmed that Bilić had signed a coaching contract with the Russian club FC Lokomotiv Moscow.[3]

Playing career

Hajduk Split

Bilić began his career at his hometown club Hajduk Split, whom he joined at the age of nine. He rose through the youth ranks at Hajduk and as part of his football schooling he was loaned out to lower level sides Primorac and Šibenik. First he spent a half-season at Primorac in 1988 and then a season and a half at Šibenik, who were at the time one of the top teams in the Yugoslav Second League. Bilić played there as a centre-back and went on to score 7 goals in 33 appearances. Yugoslav regulations allowed for a player to be dually registered (and eligible to play for both clubs) so players would normally play most of the season at smaller clubs where they were loaned to, but were at the same time allowed a maximum of five appearances for the club they were loaned from during a season. Hajduk manager Petar Nadoveza used this rule and called him up from Šibenik for six matches in the 1988–89 season. He appeared in away games against Vardar, Radnički Niš and Velež, where he scored two goals and was named man of the match in all three appearances.

His performances attracted a lot of attention and other clubs of the Yugoslav big four (Dinamo Zagreb, Crvena Zvezda and Partizan) all expressed interest in bringing him in, but to no effect. He was returned from loan and immediately joined Hajduk's squad for the next season where he quickly established himself as a first-team regular. During the next few years at Hajduk he shared the dressing room with some of the most prominent Hajduk players of that time (such as Ivan Pudar, Jerko Tipurić, Branko Karačić, Nenad Gračan and Bernard Barnjak), as well as other promising young players who would later go on to have successful careers (such as Alen Bokšić, Goran Vučević, Joško Jeličić and Robert Jarni).

Karlsruher SC

After having spent six seasons with Hajduk, Bilić moved abroad to the Bundesliga side Karlsruher SC in a £750,000 deal in 1993. His performances earned him much praise very early on and he soon became the club's captain (the first ever foreign player to be named club captain in Bundesliga history). After reaching the semi-final of the 1993–94 UEFA Cup with Karlsruhe, he was voted the best centre-back in the Bundesliga.

West Ham United

In January 1996 Harry Redknapp, manager of Premier League side West Ham United, brought him to the club for a fee of £1.3 million,[4] setting the club's record for highest fee paid for an incoming player.

His form for the Hammers saw him selected for the Croatian national team for the UEFA Euro 1996 held in England. He shone on the international stage as Croatia made their way to the quarterfinals of the tournament where they were beaten by eventual winners Germany.

His displays in the tournament led to Joe Royle brokering a £4.5M move to Everton in March 1997, but Bilić claimed he had a debt of loyalty to West Ham that saw him stay with the club until the end of the season to ensure they were not relegated.


He turned out for Everton in August 1997, after assuring himself of new manager Howard Kendall's full support, he initially brought some class to Toffee's backline but his season was marred by bookings that saw him miss several games through suspension.

It looked like his Everton career was over but he went into the 1998 FIFA World Cup with Croatia and the team were the surprise package of the tournament, reaching the semi-finals, where they were beaten by hosts France. Croatia finished in third place after winning the playoff game.

Bilić was involved in controversy during the tournament for the role he played in the dismissal of Laurent Blanc in the semi-final with France. With Croatia behind, a free kick was awarded which saw Slaven marking the French defender. Bilić held Blanc and to free himself, Blanc pushed Bilić, making contact with his chin and chest. Bilić fell to the ground clutching his forehead. Bilić later admitted that he was acting, and went down only after encouragement from teammate Igor Štimac. Blanc was sent off and missed the World Cup final through suspension. Bilić did not apologize but did say, "I swear if I could change that so [Blanc] could play in the final, I would."[5]

After his exertions in the World Cup, Bilić revealed a nagging groin strain that required rest and treatment, which he took back home in Croatia. After missing the first quarter of the season, Bilić was left wondering if he would get back into the Everton side managed by Walter Smith. He did so and showed some good form but could never fully establish himself due to injuries and suspensions.

Everton decided to cut their losses on Bilić in July 1999, leaving him free to choose a new club but unwanted in England. He continued to play only for Croatia on a £27,000-a-week contract with Everton, while living in Zagreb. The club eventually agreed to give Bilić a million-pound payoff, representing around half of the balance remaining on his lucrative contract which still had 28 months to run. Just two days later, Bilić signed up with his home club Hajduk Split where he briefly played until retiring.

International goals

# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 8 October 1996 Renato Dall'Ara, Bologna  Bosnia and Herzegovina
0 − 1
1 − 4
World Cup 1998 Qualifying
2. 6 September 1997 Maksimir, Zagreb  Bosnia and Herzegovina
1 − 1
3 − 2
World Cup 1998 Qualifying
3. 29 October 1997 Maksimir, Zagreb  Ukraine
1 − 0
2 − 0
World Cup 1998 Qualifying


Hajduk Split


Managing career

Early days

As a shareholder in his hometown club, Hajduk Split, he temporarily agreed to manage them until the club found a replacement manager. Having admitted that the adrenaline inspired him, he reportedly received guidance after traveling Europe and visiting Arsène Wenger and Marcello Lippi.[6]

Slaven Bilić, together with Aljoša Asanović, managed the Croatian U-21 team for two years during the qualification rounds for the U-21 European championship of 2006. Their team went through the group stage but lost in playoff to Serbia and Montenegro.


Bilić was appointed head coach of the main national team on 25 July 2006, succeeding Zlatko Kranjčar after the unsuccessful 2006 World Cup. His assistants included former teammates Aljoša Asanović, Robert Prosinečki, Nikola Jurčević, and Marijan Mrmić. One of his first actions in charge of the squad for Slaven Bilić was the promotion of three players from the U-21 squad, who were Eduardo da Silva, Luka Modrić, and Vedran Ćorluka, who would all eventually enjoy impressive success and make transfers to the Barclays Premier League. The team's first official game under Bilić was the 2–0 friendly win in Livorno against Italy, while Bilić's first competitive game was the 0–0 draw in Moscow against Russia in the opener for their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. Many criticized this result due to Bilić's suspension of Dario Srna, Ivica Olić and Boško Balaban who escaped from camp three days before the match and went to night club Fontana in Zagreb. Probably no one would find out, but there was a gunfight and police intervention.[7] Therefore they were temporarily cut from the squad.

Further in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, he led Croatia to a very successful campaign in a group consisting of England, Russia, Israel, Macedonia, Estonia, and Andorra. Bilić managed to lead Croatia to a first place finish in Group E, most notably masterminding home and away victories against England, who consequently didn't qualify and sacked their then-manager Steve McClaren.[6] It became England's first ever loss at the new Wembley Stadium. Croatia also managed to equal their highest ever win record as they beat Andorra 7–0.

At the Euro 2008 tournament itself, where he was the youngest coach, Slaven and the rest of his squad had to participate with a "handicap" as they were without their star striker Eduardo, who sustained a serious injury a few months earlier. Nonetheless, Bilić led his side to an outstanding achievement as they won all three group stage games of the competition, taking maximum points in the group for the first time in their history, which included an impressive 2–1 victory over eventual finalists Germany. Even his sides second string reserve side was seen to be too strong for their final group opponents Poland, who they beat 1–0 due to an Ivan Klasnić goal.[8]

Croatia soon became labeled as favorites for the tournament, but they would soon suffer an exit in the quarter finals against Turkey. Though he admitted that the defeat would haunt him and his squad for the rest of their lives,[9] and having revealed thoughts of possible resignation, he eventually pledged to stay on with Croatia and stated that they would return bigger and stronger after the alarming defeat.

Croatia started their qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as one of the favourites to qualify from Group 6 after a promising show at Euro 2008. Their group contained England, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Andorra. Croatia failed to qualify after finishing third, but Bilić has decided to stay with the team for at least two more years.

Croatia were placed in Group F for the Euro 2012 qualifiers. Croatia finished second in the group behind Greece, advancing to the play-offs. In the play-offs, Croatia beat Turkey 3-0 on aggregate to advance to the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine. For the finals, Croatia were drawn in Group C alongside Italy, Ireland and world champions Spain.

Croatia opened their tournament campaign with a comfortable 3-1 victory over The Republic of Ireland, with striker Mario Mandžukić scoring twice. Mandžukić continued his run at the tournament with an equalizer in the 1-1 draw against Italy, which was marred by controversial fan reactions and referee decisions from English official Howard Webb. The team ultimately faced a complicated scenario in the buildup to their final group game against reigning champions Spain. Croatia were ultimately succumbed to a 1-0 defeat. Moments before Jesus Navas scored the game's only goal, Vedran Ćorluka was the victim of a neck-tie tackle by Spain defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets on a corner kick which removed Ćorluka from a goal scoring opportunity in the penalty box. The late Spanish goal, along with Italy's victory over The Republic of Ireland, forced Croatia to exit the tournament in the group stage. However, the team subsequently garnered widespread domestic praise for their tournament performance, and were greeted by a large crowd upon their return. Upon his formal departure, Bilić was also praised for his long-standing service to the national side. Domestic media outlet Jutarnji List labelled him as Croatia's only manager to depart on such positive terms and credited him for his strong revival of the national side during his six-year tenure.[1]

FC Lokomotiv Moscow

On 14 May 2012, it was confirmed that Bilić had signed a coaching contract with the Russian club FC Lokomotiv Moscow.[3] Upon the confirmation of signing, Lokomotiv chairman Olga Smorodskaya stated that Lokomotiv had tough competition in signing Bilić, as he was targeted by many clubs around the Europe who wanted to sign him as their new manager.[10] Bilić took over the team after the Euro 2012 tournament had finished. His assistants included former teammates and former assistants during his tenure as manager in national team Aljoša Asanović and Nikola Jurčević. Upon his arrival he made his first big signing for the team, signing his ex-Croatia national football team player Vedran Ćorluka from Tottenham Hotspur F.C. for a fee of £5.5million. His first official match as the new Lokomotiv manager came on 20 July 2012 in away match against Mordoviya Saransk, ending in 3:2 win for FC Lokomotiv Moscow. Bilić's first season as a manager ended with the Lokomotiv's worst league result (9th place) since establishing of Russian championship in 1992. Bilić accepted responsibility for Lokomotiv's failure and was sacked on 18 June 2013.[11]

Beşiktaş J.K.

After parting ways with Lokomotiv, Bilić entered talks to take over as Beşiktaş manager. The deal was confirmed on 26 June 2013 after an agreement to a three-year contract worth 4.8 million. Bilić signed the contract on 28 June 2013.[12]

Managerial statistics

As of 16 September 2013
Team From To Record
Pld W D L Win %
Hajduk Split 21 November 2001 4 May 2002 17 11 4 2 64.70
Croatia U21 18 August 2004 1 August 2006 18 10 2 6 55.55
Croatia 1 August 2006 14 May 2012 65 42 15 8 64.62
Lokomotiv Moscow 14 May 2012 18 June 2013 29 12 7 10 47.62
Beşiktaş 25 June 2013 Present 6 5 0 1 83.33

Management style

Bilić has said in a post tournament interview that he and his players compiled and studied many games of their opponents to become very well prepared for tough matches.[13]

Known to be a big fan of music, Bilić relates his teams motivation to such, often encouraging them to listen to inspiring music before and after games. He went on to state "I cannot do my job without music, I need it to relax".[14]


  • "Wake up! You did not score your two goals because you had two strikers up front, we were simply the better team."[15] (During his post match interview after Croatia beat England 3–2 at Wembley)."
  • "Only Kaka is better than Modrić.[16]
  • "With the greatest respect to women, football is the most beautiful thing in the world."[17]
  • "I don't think it is an advantage to play against Austria first. I would much rather have played against San Marino first, with the greatest respect to them for not qualifying."[18]
  • "Look at our qualifying record."[18] (When Croatia's future success was doubted).
  • "I don’t like these people, I don’t want them supporting us. We don’t want them in the stadium. We are angry with these stupid fans" (On accusations of racial abuse towards Italian footballer Mario Balotelli by Croatian fans).[19]
  • "The team's philosophy is 'power to the people.' There are no rich or poor here. No classes. That's why I can say that I am endeavoring for a socialist team." (Post-match interview after Beşiktaş beat Gaziantepspor 2–0 in Spor Toto Super Lig).[20]

Personal life

Along with his native Croatian, Bilić is fluent in German, Italian, and English, while he also holds a degree in law.[21] As a big fan of rock music, he plays rhythm guitar with his favored red Gibson Explorer and is a member of Rawbau, a Croatian rock group.[22] In 2008, the band recorded a song for Croatia's performance at Euro 2008 called "Vatreno ludilo" ("Fiery Madness").[23] Bilic has identified himself as a socialist, and has said " If you know to share what you own, you live happily and with honor. I am a true socialist. I know I can't save the world on my own; but if there is a struggle against unjustness, I always prefer to be on the frontline, and that is my attitude toward life." [24]


External links

  • FIFA competition record
  • Slaven Bilić at
  • Slaven Bilić at
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Zlatko Kranjčar
0Croatia national football team manager0
Succeeded by
Igor Štimac

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