Passionate Bilic is the real star of Euro 2008

Slaven Bilic is fast becoming one of the most likeable men in world football. When the Croatia coach stands on the touchline watching his country, he is as animated as a Japanese manga comic.

Passion pushes him to pace his technical area, scream at the top of his lungs and leap into his assistant's arms when his side score. All this while dressed in a smart grey two-piece suit and crisp white shirt – the diamond earring and cigarette the only indicators that he may have a recalcitrant streak.

Bilic is the second best national team coach in the world according to official rankings. Only Dunga, the coach of Brazil, is ahead of him, but while Dunga has the luxury of utilising the likes of Ronaldinho, Robinho and Kaka, Bilic works with a limited squad.

Luka Modric is without doubt the Croats key player and Bilic's unreserved admiration of the diminutive midfielder is admirable. "The best player in Europe." "Only Kaka is better." "Unbelievable talent."

This is a coach who has no problem lauding his players when credit is due and Modric's confident displays this week – particularly in the surprise defeat of Germany on Thursday – are testament to the belief his charismatic coach has shown in him.

Jose Mourinho – or simply "Mourinho" as he is now asking to be known – also loved to heap praise on his players while at Chelsea. Much was written about the Special One's arrogance during his tenure: his blind support of his squad, his criticism of other teams' styles, his lack of humility in defeat. But Mourinho also wore a suave suit and danced emotionally on the sidelines. He also had "the passion" and with it came success – although evidently not enough for Roman Abramovich.

In time, Bilic will join the ranks of Juande Ramos and Rafa Benitez and try his hand at coaching in the Premiership, and success similar to Mourinho's is not unrealistic. A former hard-as-nails defender at Everton and West Ham, the brazen Bilic would have been the perfect successor to Avram Grant at Chelsea.

It is believed he was approached but refused to hinder his national team's chances of silverware this summer by agreeing anything. This action speaks volumes about the man's patriotism – Bilic's dream is to coach in the English Premier League – but whether his nationalism and his passion are inseparable remains to be seen.

Would he be able to get himself quite so fired-up were he to be coaching a club side in England? Who knows, but I'm sure we'll find out in the not too distant future.

Until then we have two weeks to watch Croatia light up the tournament, which with Modric pulling the strings in the midfield is as inevitable as seeing the crazed Bilic pacing the sidelines in his suit shouting at the top of his lungs and lunging forcefully into his assistant's arms when his side score.

 

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