June 7, 2018 / 10:53 AM / 6 months ago

Soccer: CSKA Sofia hire British coach El Maestro as they target European success

SOFIA (Reuters) - Britain’s Nestor El Maetrso has been appointed coach of Bulgaria’s CSKA Sofia, with the club hoping he can end years of under-achievement and disappointment in European competitions.

Belgrade-born El Maestro, 35, guided five-times Czechoslovak champions Spartak Trnava to their first Slovak league title last month and was named manager of the season.

El Maestro, who previously worked as assistant coach at Germany’s Schalke 04, Hanover 96 and Hamburg SV as well as Austria Vienna, was born as Nestor Jevtic before changing his name twice — including a short spell as John Smith as a teenager — after his family fled to Britain because of the war in former Yugoslavia.

El Maestro will be seeking to end Ludogorets’ domination of the Bulgarian league. The Razgrad-based side clinched their seventh successive title with four games to spare in April.

CSKA remain the most successful club in the Balkan country after winning 31 league titles and reaching three European semi-finals in happier times between 1967 and 1989.

However, CSKA, one of the two most popular Bulgarian clubs alongside city rivals Levski Sofia, have not won the domestic title since 2008.

“I’m obviously very happy, proud and honoured to be part of CSKA, a giant club known all over the world,” El Maestro, who will be assisted by his 25-year-old brother Nikon, told a news conference at CSKA’s Bulgarska Armiya stadium.

TACTICAL BATTLES

“CSKA are the biggest club in Bulgaria and we’ll try to win more matches than the other teams.”

In a bid to strengthen their squad, CSKA also signed Croatian goalkeeper Dante Stipica from Hajduk Split and Cape Verde defender Steven Pereira from Dutch side MVV Maastricht.

The appointment of the new coach has been met with a mixed reception by the club’s fans after some pundits expressed opinions that El Maestro, a huge admirer of Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, has a reputation of building teams around a solid defensive unit and negative approach.

CSKA unveiled El Maestro only a day after Ludogorets appointed Brazilian Paulo Autuori as manager.

El Maestro will have to be ready for even more tactical battles when CSKA cross swords with Levski, coached by ex-Lazio boss Delio Rossi.

Last month Stamen Belchev resigned as CSKA coach after about a 18 months in charge, having failed to outclass Ludogorets in the title race or win any other trophy.

The Reds had looked like title contenders in the first half of the season but the team’s performance after New Year was criticised with Belchev being replaced by Hristo Yanev for the last matches of the season.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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