BELGRADE (Reuters) - Former Yugoslavia midfielder Dejan Stankovic was given his first full-time job as a head coach after he took over at Serbian champions Red Star Belgrade on Saturday.
Stankovic, who had a brief stint as Andrea Stramaccioni’s assistant at Serie A side Udinese, replaced Vladan Milojevic who guided Red Star to two successive league titles and Champions League group stage berths before he stepped down on Thursday.
Stankovic, who spent three years at Red Star as a teenager before moving to Italy, was delighted to return home and thanked Milojevic for welcoming him into the driving seat.
“Red Star launched me many years ago with a mission to return here one day,” he told a news conference.
“I’ve been a football man for 20 years and I’ve never seen an outgoing manager greet his successor with a smile.
“My staff and I are eager to carry on where Milojevic left off and we are aware of the pressure. This is an emotional moment but we have to put our emotions aside and work with cool heads in order to achieve our objectives.”
Red Star top the Serbian first division at the winter break on 55 points from 20 games, 11 more than bitter city rivals Partizan.
They were eliminated from European competition after finishing bottom of their Champions League group, with their campaign including 5-0 and 4-0 defeats by Tottenham Hotspur.
The 41-year old Stankovic enjoyed a distinguished career in Italy, winning one league title at Lazio and five at Inter Milan, where he also lifted the 2010 Champions League.
He also scored 15 goals in 103 international appearances and played in two World Cups for his country (1998 and 2006), as well as in Euro 2000. Stankovic retired at Inter in 2013.
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic Editing by Ian Chadband