Vujadin Boskov: The Simple Genius

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Vujadin Boskov: The Simple Genius
GIULIO BROGLIO

Vujadin Boskov loved to talk. Educated to be a professor of history and geography, Boskov would often gather friends, players or even journalists, buy them a dinner and discuss anything that would cross his mind. The man was an interesting character—a sort of prankster and eccentric, a showman. But, when it came to football, Boskov was the simple man.

"I don't understand why some of my colleagues love to complicate things?" he said in an interview for Yugoslav magazine Tempo in 1974. "They love to use fancy words and make sort of fetish out of our profession. I don’t like that. This is king of sports because it is so simple game".

As his legendary saying that journalists in Spain often use say, "football is...football."

Boskov spent most of his playing career in unfashionable Vojvodina in Yugoslavia, with short spells at Sampdoria and Young Boys in Switzerland. He was capped for Yugoslavia 57 times and won the silver medal at the 1952 Olympic football tournament. In 1962, while still a player, he took his first coaching job at Young Boys, where he spent two years before going back to Vojvodina. As a technical director, he transformed a provincial little club into the champions of Yugoslavia, and in 1971 took over the national team.

Graham Chadwick/Getty Images

However, in his homeland he was never recognized the same way as abroad. In 1973 he left the country and moved to the Netherlands, where he took over Den Haag and steered them to Dutch cup success in 1975. That earned him a chance in Feyenoord, but in 1978 he decided to move to Spain. After one season in Zaragoza, where he was struggling to keep the team away from relegation, he surprisingly succeeded Miljan Miljanic as Real Madrid manager.

"I know some people think that, as a coach, I am not in the same league as Real Madrid. Just give me some time, let me work and then judge me," he said on his presentation in Chamartin. Boskov won La Liga and Copa del Rey, navigating Madrid side to their first European cup final in 15 years, were they lost to Liverpool.

In the mid-1980s Italian Serie A was at its peak—packed with best players and coaches in the world. Boskov entered Italian football through the backdoor, deciding to join struggling Ascoli and win them promotion. At the same time Paolo Mantovani was working on his Sampdoria project and Boskov looked like a perfect choice to lead it. Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli were already there, Gianluca Pagliuca and Toninho Cerezo joined them, and they were the spine of the team that later won a Scudetto, two Italian cups and the Cup Winners' Cup, before they reached a European Cup final against Barcelona at Wembley.

A coaching genius, who worked wonders with Sampdoria, he was always branded as true gentleman and fine tactician. Boskov entertained the Italian public with his simplicity and some of his idiosyncratic comments remain legendary. It's a “penalty is when referee whistles" he once said. "It's always better to win than to draw and to draw than to lose," was another. And, “after the rain comes the sun."

Ronald Koeman's free-kick goal denied Boskov the European Cup and it marked the beginning of his decline. He moved to Roma, where he introduced 16-year old Francesco Totti to first-team football, but his spell in Rome was short as well as the ones in Napoli, Sampdoria once again and Perugia. In 2000 he was back home, to lead his now decreased country to the Euros, but a heavy defeat to the Netherlands (6-1) sealed his coaching career.

"This is not the game I love. This is not my football. I do not recognize it anymore, everything is about the money now. I don't want work in it anymore", he said when he decided to retire, and simplified things the last time.

“Every coach has to leave."

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