"The best was Djalminha"

Slavisa Jokanovic (Novi Sad, Serbia, 1968) triumphed as a player in Oviedo, Tenerife and Deportivo. Then, as a technician, he shone in England. He now directs in Qatar.


-He remains an idol in Oviedo, Tenerife and A Coruña, where he triumphed as a player in the 90's. What do you remember about that?

-The first one who called me to come to Spain was Radomir Antic. I had not played with him, but he knew me from the Serbian league and Partizan. He was heading to Oviedo. Then I had a very close relationship with him, to the point of being neighbors. Whenever I go home it is to watch a game. You'll never find him watching a movie (laughs)!

-And what did you know about Oviedo?

-I didn't know anything. It was time to leave my country. He was 25 years old and had received offers from Leverkusen and Sampdoria. Antic called me and convinced me. I knew immediately where I was going thanks to Nikola Jerkan and Janko Jankovic, who were my companions.

-Then in Tenerife he made history in Europe ...

-Yes, I remember that 5-3 to Lazio in the Heliodoro. We had lost 1-0 in Rome and they had annulled me a legal goal. On the lap we start losing 0-1. We thought we were going to drop a win. But we had a great team and the game was very open. He finished 5-3 as it could be a 9-5 or something. Incredible.

-And in the Depor touched the glory, League champion

-That Depor champion was a generation of gold. Djalminha, for example, for me the best footballer I played with. Now everything is very different. The situation is limit. If you go down to Second B, you even run the risk of disappearing.

-Would you direct any of your exequipos in Spain, now in Second?

-Coaches' careers depend on the moments. An opportunity is not the same when you have just finished in a club and another arises, than when you are directing. What is a fact is that in Spain I acquired great professional and personal prestige. My career in Spain is more recognized for what I did as a player; in England, on the contrary, it is because of what I have done as a coach.

-How are things going for Al Gharafa, Qatar?

-Very good. Qatar is like a kind of Big Brother of coaches. We all live nearby, we see each other a lot, we go to the same hotels, restaurants ... I told Xavi when we met last time: "Tomorrow we meet again (laughs)."

-Is it a step back to go to Qatar? How do you rate it?

-I needed to work. I also get different benefits than usual. It is clear that if one day I have the opportunity to return to England or direct in Spain, I will value it. In summer I had Championship offers. But I was seduced by Qatar.

-It will have important conditions, such as heat or religion ...

-In Qatar I have experienced a heat that I never felt before. During the hottest time it is played with air conditioning and it is an incredible feeling. You are 20 degrees on the grass when it is 47 out. During the World Cup they won't need it. At the end of the year the temperature is pleasant, the air is not needed.

-How are the preparations for the World Cup going?

-They are building the beast. They are not only thinking about the World Cup, but also what will remain next. The Qataris are few, but they have a lot of power.

-And is there a football environment?

-A few fans go to the matches. Al Rayyan and Al Sadd do bring together 3,000 or 4,000 people. Ours are about 400 or 500. With the selection they usually go more. In the Gulf Cup they filled the Khalifa stadium, for example

-Does the Premier or LaLiga look more?

-The Premier may be seen more, but the League is also followed. The Qatari is a championship that wants to professionalize, look at the big leagues. In my team there are soccer players who work on other things in the morning and then come to train with us. There is little sport culture. You have to encourage people to play football.

-And the limit of foreigners, conditions that the teams are not better?

-It is not so easy for foreign players to play in Qatar. There are few places and football is more difficult to play with people of low level than with people of a lot. What Qatar is looking for are names, important players that give the tournament a media dimension.

-You are becoming a whole globetrotter ...

-It is the seventh country in which I lead. I like these experiences. I also lived the other side, the one with the highest demand. I was in the second English division with Watford and Fulham and in both cases I ascended. With Fulham I directed in the Premier.

-Lately there are many technical changes in England.

-The Premier is no longer just English football, now it is international football. The figure of the historical manager that had previously ceased to exist. There are many owners from outside England. It has become a super business.

-However you took Sessegnon out of the Fulham quarry and then you have been signed by Tottenham.

-He was a physically made player. He was asking for an elite step. Coaches do not pull young people to look for a new Messi, that is not the function when you take a guy like that from the quarry. Among other things because a player like Messi comes out once in history (laughs)… .

-Is it very different to lead in Spain to do it in England?

-Everything is different in England, yes. The coach is someone very respected, you can work more calmly. The second English division cannot be compared with the Spanish one. We had 20,000 spectators at the Fulham games; there are other great clubs that also fill their stadiums: Derby, Leeds ...

-Why does the English footballer not adapt outside?

-It is hard to get out of there, but it also cost the Spaniard in my time. Now everything has changed and the Spanish are all over the league. It's normal.

-Do you play your style of play with that of England?

- (Sighs) When I arrived, I thought: "I don't know how to play this football". Then, when you take many years, things are hitting you. That long ball game and second moves ... it is true that now they are changing it. The style is increasingly continental.

-Would you like to be recognized also in Spain as a coach, not just as a player?

-Yes, I want to direct in Spain, of course, it's a natural thing. The problem is that Madrid or Atlético haven't called me yet (laughs)! I've been living in Madrid for 17 years. Two children of mine were born in Tenerife; the other, in Madrid. But I have not considered anything for the future.

-It is rare that he has not had opportunities in LaLiga.

-In Spain there have been some options and interest, but it has not yet been given the opportunity to train. Only a brief stage in the Hercules, which I took on May 5 and 12 points of salvation. The mission was impossible, although I consider it a stage that helped me in my career.

-You are Serbian, how do you see Jovic in Madrid?

-It will depend on him if it fits or not. If you ask me which striker is better, if Jovic or Benzema, I will obviously say Benzema. But Jovic tries, he moves. If he didn't move, it would seem that he doesn't do anything in the matches. I heard you are accused of cold and pasota. Madrid is like that. If they called Cristiano ...

-Will Jovic get to what he promised?

-I remember that the first game I played as a professional was in my hometown. He seemed half chubby, harmless ... but he scored two goals with 16 years. I had something special. He was signed very young from Benfica, then I was transferred to Germany and it exploded there. Is young. We will see



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