In any discussion of legendary coaches who are still plying their trade, Bora Milutinovic’s name is more than likely to crop up. The fact is that there is no other coach on the planet who can lay claim to having taken charge of five different national teams at five different FIFA World Cup™ finals, four of which he steered through to the second round.
And when it comes to appraising the men in the dugout, there are few voices as authoritative as Milutinovic. The 72-year-old Serbian has his finger on the pulse when it comes to coaching news around the world. Now based in Doha, Qatar, where he works as a consultant to a football academy, he welcomed FIFA.com for an exclusive interview in which he shared his views on the ten contenders for The Best FIFA Men’s Coach of 2016.
FIFA.com: *what’s your view on Luis Enrique, Barcelona’s successful coach?
*Let’s start by saying that coaches are usually judged on their successes, and Luis Enrique won the league and the Cup, not to mention the Champions League last year. Sometimes, though, achievements can be measured in more than just trophies, and what he’s done is maintain and fine tune the style of a team that was struggling for results when he took over. That’s not easy and he deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done.
*Let’s turn to Didier Deschamps, who took France to the final of UEFA EURO 2016. What do you think about him?
*He showed just how good he is at Juventus and now he’s finished runner-up in the European Championships, which is a great result. What you have to ask is if the French see it as a success. If they do, then that’s how it should be judged.
*Staying in Europe, what’s your take on Wales coach Chris Coleman?
*In analysing any result, you need to take the team achieving it into consideration and their expectations. What Coleman did was amazing. He had a historic campaign with Wales, who don’t have the greatest players in the world, aside from Gareth Bale.
The same can be said for Iceland coach Lars Lagerback. He’s not been nominated, but he did an incredible job. When you achieve a result, you always have to take the circumstances into consideration. They both achieved incredible things. It’s a shame that winning trophies is the only thing that counts a lot of the time because performances like that should not be overlooked.
*Let’s move on now to a very regular contender in Pep Guardiola, who won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich before moving to Manchester City.
*He’s very highly regarded and he has a great career record. He achieved something big, though you have to bear in mind that he had a superb squad with a lot of top players. That’s something you need to take into account.
*What’s your opinion of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino, two coaches who are making their mark in the English Premier League?
*Klopp is a fantastic coach who did a really great job with Borussia Dortmund and has now got Liverpool back on track. They’ve had some very tough times and they needed a breath of fresh air. Pochettino’s done pretty much the same thing at Tottenham. They’re both talented, intelligent coaches who’ve restored their teams’ confidence.
*Can the same be said of Claudio Ranieri?
*Of course! That was amazing! What he achieved last year was nothing short of extraordinary. Who could have expected anything like that? No one, not even in their wildest dreams, thought Leicester would win the Premier League. Like I said before, when a coach achieves something big like this with a team that’s not among the favourites, you have to consider it in that light.
*Talking of surprises, is that how you see Fernando Santos, who defied all expectations to win the EURO title with Portugal?
*There’s no doubt in my mind that he had a big hand to play in Portugal’s triumph. They’ve never won a major trophy before. When you win a title like the European Championship, there’s not a lot more to say.
*Let’s move from Portugal to Spain now. Give us your views on Diego Simeone?
*He’s great with the players and squeezes the last drop of football out of them. He really knows his stuff and he’s a superb motivator. I think he’s the all-round coach and he’s done an absolutely superb job at Atletico Madrid.
*And to round things off: Zinedine Zidane, a champion of Europe with Real Madrid.
*When you win the Champions League, there’s nothing more to say. He’s an intelligent coach with a lot of character. I hope he stays that way and achieves a lot more success.
*Is there anyone you might have missed out?
*Well, I mentioned Lagerback, but I missed out the most important one of all: Bora, of course (laughs).