By Tim Rich
29 April 2016
Slaven Bilic will go on to manage “one of the great clubs in world football” after completing his work at the stepping stone of West Ham, according to his compatriot and friend Darijo Srna.
Srna, 33, is the captain of Shakhtar Donetsk and has known Bilic – who is working wonders with West Ham this season – since Srna was 10 years old. Srna has been coached by Bilic at both Hajduk Split and for Croatia and says that Bilic rather than Jose Mourinho would prove to be “the real special one” of football management.
In an exclusive interview with Sportingintelligence, Srna said: “He is an unbelievable man. West Ham will not be the limit for him. When he has achieved everything he can at West Ham, he will one day join a top, top club.
“What he has done so far in his career is no accident. He could manage a Barcelona or a Manchester club without any problem.”
Srna was talking to Sportingintelligence in Ukraine as part of a feature about the remarkable story of Shakhtar, and how they now exist in exile and play under the constant threat of closure.
Srna said that what made Bilic successful was his relationship with his players, that could change depending on the footballer’s personality.
“I fell in love with Slaven Bilic when he was my coach at Hajduk Split,” he said. “Depending on who you are in the team, he is a friend, a coach, a father or a brother. He is the real special one, believe me. It means that players are ready to die for him.”
Bilic’s record at club level is a mixed one. After a hugely successful spell as manager of Croatia, he went to Russia to manage Lokomotiv Moscow, which ended in his dismissal after a single season.
Beskitas, where he oversaw a move to a new stadium – a job he is repeating at West Ham – was a much happier affair that ended with him being carried on the shoulders of the club’s fans at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport as he left for London.
Srna said Bilic’s touchline performance on the night Croatia ensured Steve McClaren’s England would not qualify for Euro 2008 was a perfect demonstration of his qualities. “The positive energy he gives from the sidelines is astonishing,” said Srna. “You saw that in that game at Wembley and the interesting thing about that night was that we did not need to win that match.”