"He is probably the best left-footed player in the world, in the history of football." Savo Milosevic lauded Sinisa Mihajlovic as he rallied around his former team-mate following the Bologna head coach's cancer diagnosis.
Serbian great Mihajlovic is set to undergo treatment after revealing his battle with leukaemia on Saturday, sparking an outpour of well-wishes from players – past and present – and supporters. Milosevic played alongside Mihajlovic at international level, the pair representing Serbia – when they were known as the former republic of Yugoslavia – at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. And Milosevic hailed ex-Serbia boss Mihajlovic, who earned a reputation as a free-kick specialist during his playing days with Red Star Belgrade, Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter. "I will win this battle."
"It is very difficult to talk about him because I'm very close with Sinisa," Milosevic told Omnisport. "We have a special relationship aside from playing football together. I have no words for what happened but all I can say is I know his character, I know he will beat this. He always fought through many things… wars, lot of tragedies and difficulties and he managed to survive. I'm positive in this situation. I believe he will win this battle also."
"Sinisa is probably the best left-footed player in the world, in the history of football," Milosevic continued. "There are so many players who can take free-kicks well but not one like him. What he could do with the ball, it's impossible to explain. People need to watch videos to see part of the picture. It was a privilege to be on the pitch with him. He is not just a great player, but a great person."
Like countryman Mihajlovic, Milosevic has turned to coaching, albeit only recently via Serbian giants Partizan Belgrade. Up until March, Milosevic had never worked as a head coach however the 45-year-old is now in charge of his boyhood club, with a piece of silverware already under his belt. While Partizan finished third behind Red Star Belgrade in the SuperLiga last season, Milosevic's men did not end the campaign emptyhanded, winning the Serbian Cup against their bitter city rivals.
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As eight-time SuperLiga champions Partizan prepare to open their league campaign on Sunday, Milosevic said: "For my confidence and the confidence of the team, it was very important to win that final against Red Star Belgrade.
"After that game, the players started to believe more in themselves. Also for me, it was important to start well after three, four months. Long term, it's not a big deal to win the Serbian Cup but for this moment, it's important for me, the players and the club. We didn't have a good season in 2018-19, so it's always important for big clubs to win trophies."
After some words of encouragement from Manchester United legend Alex Ferguson convinced Milosevic to take up coaching, the former Aston Villa and Parma striker eventually replaced Zoran Mirkovic late in 2018-19. Reflecting on his work at Partizan so far, Milosevic said: "It was very difficult and tough time, not because I started as a coach but the situation at the club was very difficult with the team. The amount of work we had to do to finish the season well was enormous.
"But on the other hand, it was good because the experiences I've had in the last three months it would take maybe one or two years at another club. It was difficult to survive, but it was good to get through that as a first-time coach."
Milosevic, who scored 37 goals in 102 international appearances, enjoyed success as a player with two league titles and a cup for Partizan before joining Villa for a then-club record fee of £3.5million in 1995 – claiming the League Cup winners' medal in his first season.
However, he is facing a big task at Partizan, who won six successive league titles from 2007 to 2013 but have not triumphed since 2016-17, finishing 18 points behind Red Star in the championship round. Not just in Partizan but Serbian football, I want to try to bring the quality of football closer to Europe because we're now far behind," Milosevic continued when asked what legacy he wants to leave. "I know exactly where football is today around Europe and the world.
"It will be difficult, but I believe I can do that. The people I'm working with, we know what to do to move things forward. It won't be easy but it's possible. That's the main thing I want to try to do… not the biggest club in Europe but a serious club."