Where Are They Now returns with a special Under 20 World Cup edition looking back the champions of the 1987 – Yugoslavia. A vastly talented squad beat West Germany in the final on penalties in Chile…
1. Dragoje Lekovic (Goalkeeper, Buducnost Titograd)
The undisputed number one in the tournament, Lekovic would break through into the senior national side in 1988. Lekovic stayed with Buducnost until 1991 when he left to join Yugoslav giants Red Star Belgrade. He was a more rotational keeper during his time at Red Star and was allowed to leave after a season to join FK Mogren. He eventually left Yugoslavia in 1994 to join Scottish side Kilmarnock where he was the number one and helped the club to the 1997 Scottish Cup. Lekovic would leave Scotland and Kilmarnock in 1998 to join Spanish side Sporting Gijon where he experienced relegation from La Liga as second choice before joining Malaga in the second tier after just a few months. He helped Malaga to promotion as second choice before leaving Spain in 2000 to join Cypriot side AEK Larnaca. Lekovic joined Australian side Perth Glory in 2002 before retiring in 2003 at 36. Lekovic would play four times for the Yugoslav national side until the war broke out in 1991 including being unused at the 1990 World Cup before playing ten times for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1997 and 1998 (again being unused at the 1998 World Cup). Lekovic is currently the assistant manager of the Montenegro national team, a role has held since 2011.
2. Branko Brnovic (Defender, Buducnost Titograd)
More often used as a midfielder through his club career, Brnovic played five times in the tournament. Like Lekovic, he left Buducnost in 1991 but went to the other Belgrade giants, Partizan. His time in Belgrade was more successful that Lekovic as he helped Partizan win back-to-back titles in his first two seasons. He left Partizan in 1994 to join Spanish side Espanyol where he played nearly 150 league games for the club and helped them win the Copa del Rey in 2000. He left Espanyol after the Copa win and did not return to professional football until 2006 when he turned out for Montenegrin side FK Kom before retiring in 2007. Brnovic would make his international debut in 1989 and played 27 times for Yugolsavia across it various guises, scoring twice until 1998 (he also appeared at the 1998 World Cup). Brnovic was appointed assistant manager of the Montenegro national team in 2007 and remained in the role until 2011 when he was promoted to manager, a role he still has to date.
3. Robert Jarni (Defender, Hadjuk Split)
Full back Jarni was a key man at the back for the Yugoslav team in the tournament and would make his name with Hadjuk Split, winning two Yugoslav cups before leaving for Italian side Bari in 1991. He spent two seasons at the club and earned himself a move to Torino in 1993 where his performances caught the attention of local rivals Juventus. He made the move in 1994 and won a league and cup double in his time with Juve but was merely a squad player and left after a season to join Spanish side Real Betis. His form really picked up at Betis and he drew the attention of Real Madrid who wanted to sign him in 1998 but were given no chance to Betis. Rather surprisingly, Jarni joined English side Coventry City that summer for £2.6 million but before he ever played a game for Coventry, he was sold to Real Madrid for £3.4 million in what might go down as the sneakiest transfer deal of all time. Jarni only spent a season in Madrid winning just an Intercontinental Cup before joining Las Palmas in the second tier. He helped the club to the Segunda Division title in 2000 and was a regular in their La Liga campaign the following season. He left in early 2002 to join Greek side Panathinaikos but played just five times before retiring that summer. Jarni played seven times for Yugoslavia (scoring once) between 1990 and 1991 and played at the 1990 World Cup. He made his international debut for his nation of birth Croatia in just their second match ever in December 1990 (around ten months before the Croatians were independent from Yugoslavia) and would go on to be a regular until his retirement in 2002, playing 81 times and scoring once with appearances at Euro 1996, and all of Croatia’s World Cup games in 1998 and 2002. Jarni would play futsal after retirement (he played twice internationally for Croatia) until he was appointed manager of Hadjuk Split in 2007. His time there was disappointing and he left in May 2008. He had similarly disappointing spells with NK Istra 1961 in Croatia, the Hadjuk Split under 19s and FK Sarajevo in Bosnia before he was appointed to his current role as manager of Hungarian side Pecsi MFC in November 2014.
4. Dubravko Pavlicic (Defender, Dinamo Zagreb)
Centre back Pavlicic was another regular in the tournament but found regular playing time at club level hard to come by. He left Dinamo at the start of 1990 to join Rijeka where he developed into a solid centre back and earned international recognition in 1992 with Croatia. His form attracted the attention of Spanish side Hercules who signed him in 1994. He helped Hercules to La Liga in 1996 and the following season was a star man as they went down (Pavlicic would score in both games against Barcelona). He stayed in La Liga with a move to Salamanca in the summer of 1997 but they went down in 1998. He stayed with Salamanca until 2000 when he joined Racing Ferrol before retiring in 2001. Pavlicic would play 27 times for Croatia, scoring twice in five years and appearing at Euro 1996. He settled in Spain after retirement but sadly died in April 2012 from pancreatic cancer at the age of 44.
5. Slavoljub Jankovic (Defender, Red Star Belgrade)
A product of Red Star’s academy, Jankovic would be unable to make the step up to first team level with his boyhood club. He played four times in the tournament which is coincidentally the number of league games he played for Red Star before leaving to join Nepradek at the turn of the 90s. Jankovic would go on to have spells with Busucnost and OFK Belgrade before his career stalled in large part due to the war. Jankovic would go on to play in Greece for a while before retiring. Jankovic would move into coaching with spells at Jedinstvo, SFS Borac, Radnicki Nis and, most recently, FK Juhor Obrez.
6. Igor Stimac (Defender, Hadjuk Split)
Often used in defence in his club career, Stimac would play at the back for the tournament and would bag two goals in the successful campaign. Stimac would remain with his first club Hadjuk Split until 1992 when he left to join Spanish side Cadiz. His time in Spain was solid and reasonably productive but by 1994, Stimac had returned to Hadjuk. Just a year later, English side Derby County paid £1.5 million for him and he joined the Rams in the midst of their successful promotion campaign. Stimac would go on to be a key part of the club as they consolidated their Premier League status and his performances endeared him to Derby fans so much so that he was named in a greatest XI by readers of the Derby Evening Telegraph. He would leave Derby in 1999 to join West Ham where he once again proved to be a reliable option before returning for a third and final spell with Hadjuk in 2001. Stimac retired in 2002 and immediately became Hadjuk sporting director. He held the role for three years before moving into coaching in 2005 with short spells at Hadjuk, Cibala and NK Zagreb. He was appointed Croatia boss in 2012 but resigned at the end of World Cup qualifying when they barely scraped into the play-offs after losing twice to Scotland. His current role is as manager of Zadar, which he has had since the start of the year. Internationally, Stimac would play for Croatia, making his debut in 1990 and earning 53 caps in twelve years, scoring twice.
7. Zoran Mijucic (Winger, Vojvodina)
Left winger Mijucic would play five times for the Yugoslavs in the tournament and would help his club side Vojvodina win their second and last title (to date) in 1989. He would play over 100 times for Vojvodina but the war would destroy his career with last known information being that he left Vojvodina in 1992. Mijucic would never play internationally and would pass away in 2009 at the age of 40.
8. Zvonimir Boban (Midfielder, Dinamo Zagreb)
A real talent, Boban scored three times in the tournament and was already Dinamo Zagreb captain at just 19. Boban would go on to impress at Dinamo but almost lost his career in 1990 after attacking a police officer that was attacking a Dinamo fan. He was banned for a while by the Yugoslav FA and missed the 1990 World Cup. He would leave Dinamo in 1991 for Italian giants AC Milan in a deal worth around £8 million and was immediately loaned to Bari to acclimatise. His loan spell was successful and he returned to become a key man for Milan, helping the club to four Serie A titles, three Italian Super Cups, the Champions League and European Super Cup. He played over 250 times for Milan but found his role diminished in 2001. He was loaned to Spanish side Celta Vigo for the season but struggled for game time and called it a day in October of that year. Internationally, Boban played seven times for Yugoslavia, scoring just once in three years before declaring himself for Croatia when they declared independence. He would make his Croatia debut in 1990 and captained the famous side at the 1998 World Cup. He retired from internationals in 1999 with 51 caps and 12 goals. Following retirement, Boban achieved a history degree at the University of Zagreb and moved into punditry where he is still a prominent and outspoken pundit in Croatia and Italy.
9. Robert Prosinecki (Midfielder, Red Star Belgrade)
Famously turned away by Dinamo Zagreb when looking for a professional deal, German born Prosinecki is often regarded as the best Croatian player of all time and got his Red Star deal on the back of impressing none other than Dragan Dzajic (you can read more about him here) and was the 1987 tournament’s best player. Prosinecki would help Red Star to three league titles, a Yugoslav Cup and the 1991 European Cup. His performances caught the attention of Spanish giants of Real Madrid who splashed the cash for him. His time in Madrid was blighted by muscle injuries and instability within the club as they struggled but still winning a Copa del Rey and Super Cup. Madrid eventually cut their losses on Prosinecki and sold him to Real Oviedo in 1994. He only spent a season with Oviedo before joining Barcelona where he won another Super Cup. He left Barcelona after just a year to play for Sevilla before returning to Croatia and Dinamo Zagreb in 1997. He helped Dinamo to three league titles, a Croatian Cup and Super Cup before a short spell with another Croatian side, Hrvatski Dragovoljac, in 2000. He would then have season long spells with Belgium’s Standard Liege, England’s Portsmouth, Slovenia’s Olimpija and NK Zagreb before retiring in 2004. Internationally, Prosinecki would play 15 times for Yugoslavia (scoring four times) and 49 times for Croatia (scoring ten times). He is the only man to score at two World Cups for two different teams (Yugoslavia in 1990 and Croatia in 1998) as well as being the Best Young Player in 1990 and one of the stars in 1998. Prosinecki would move into management with Red Star in 2010 and won the Serbian Cup before leaving in 2012. He had a spell with Turkish side Kayserispor before his most recent role as manager of the Azerbaijan national side which he has had since December last year.
10. Milan Pavlovic (Midfielder, Zeljeznicar)
Defender Pavlovic was named captain for the tournament and would remain with Zeljeznicar until 1991 when he left Yugoslavia to play in Greece. His Greek odyssey would begin in the third division with Nigrita for a season before he stepped up to play in the second tier with Anagennisi Karditsa. He would make the step up to the top flight in 1995 with Iraklis but only lasted a season before returning to Karditsa. He would make the step up again in 1998 with Ethnikos Asteras where he would play over 100 games before retiring in 2002.
11. Pedrag Mijatovic (Striker, Buducnost Titograd)
Young striker Mijatovic bagged two as Yugoslavia won the tournament and would remain at Buducnost until 1989 when he joined Partizan Belgrade over Hadjuk Split due to the worsening political situation around Croatia. Mijatovic really blossomed at Partizan, helping the club to a league title and two Yugoslav Cups before his departure in 1993 to Spanish side Valencia. He flourished at Valencia and almost fired them to the La Liga title in 1996, winning Spanish Player of the Year in the process. He would join Real Madrid that summer and continued his excellent form as he helped Madrid win a league title, Spanish Supercup, Champions League and Intercontinental Cup in his time at the Bernabeu. He was allowed to leave in 1999 to join Italian side Fiorentina but his time in Florence was not a success due to injury and lack of game time. He did help Fiorentina win the Coppa Italia in 2001 but left after they were relegated the following season. He returned to Spain with Levante but struggled for games and retired in 2004. Mijatovic would make his Yugoslavia debut in 1989 and would play 73 times for his country, scoring 26 times and playing at the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000. Following retirement, Mijatovic would be appointed Real Madrid’s Director of Football in 2006 and would hold the role until 2009.
12. Tomislav Piplica (Goalkeeper, Iskra)
Bosnian Piplica would stay at Iskra for another two years before moving to NK Zagreb in 1989. He would move on to Istra in 1991 before getting a chance at HNK Segesta at the start of 1993 and played over 100 games (even managing four goals in the process too) but left in 1997 NK Samobor. In 1998, Piplica left Yugoslavia to join Energie Cottbus in Germany where he would become a cult hero, notorious for his character as much as his howlers. He remained with Cottbus until 2009, playing over 250 times and retiring at 40. He stayed on as a goalkeeping coach and scout before leaving in 2011. He joined sixth tier side FC Eilenburg in 2012 as joint manager and became sole manager in 2013 where he is still employed. Piplica played nine times internationally for Bosnia in 2001 and 2002 and is also their goalkeeping coach which he has been since 2010.
13. Davor Suker (Striker, Osijek)
Croatian striker struck six goals in the tournament and would kick on with first club Osijek in the Yugoslav league, registering double figures in the next two seasons and moving onto Dinamo Zagreb in 1989. He continued his excellent form with Dinamo, earning his two Yugoslavia caps during that time (scoring once) and making the 1990 World Cup squad (never played). Suker’s performances alerted Spanish side Sevilla and he moved to Spain in 1991. His time at Sevilla developed his reputation as a lethal goalscorer as his time at Sevilla saw him achieve a ratio of around a goal every second game. He was so deadly that Spanish giants Real Madrid signed Suker in 1996 and continued his goalscoring exploits at the Bernabeu, helping them win La Liga, Spanish Super Cup, Champions League and Intercontinental Cup. His playing time in Madrid decreased until he left for English side Arsenal in 1999. He spent two reasonable seasons in England with Arsenal then West Ham before he left England for German side 1860 Munich. He rarely played in Germany before retiring in 2003. He made his Croatia debut in 1992 and won 69 caps for his country and scored 45 times (a Croatian record). Suker is most famous to many having won the Golden Boot and Silver Ball as Croatia finished third at the 1998 World Cup, shocking the world in the process. Suker currently operates his own football academy in Croatia – the Davor Suker Soccer Academy.
14. Gordan Petric (Defender, OFK Beograd)
Defender Petric’s performances for first club OFK Beograd earned him a move to giants Partizan Belgrade in 1989. He helped Partizan win the league once and the cup twice before moving to Scottish side Dundee United in 1993. Petric impressed at Tannadice and won the Scottish Cup in 1994 before joining Rangers in 1995. He helped the club win the last two league titles of their nine in a row before leaving in 1998 for English side Crystal Palace. He only spent a short time with Palace before a small stint at AEK Athens before returning to Scotland with Hearts. He had a solid two years with Hearts but left by mutual consent in 2001. Petric played three times for Chinese side Sichuan Dahe in 2002 before retiring. Petric made his Yugoslavia debut in 1989 but only played four times between then and 1997.
15. Petar Skoric (Defender, Vojvodina)
Nicknamed Pero, Skoric has had a long career with a number of clubs. He had two spells with Vojvodina (sandwiching a spell with Spartak Subotica) before leaving Yugoslavia in 1991 for Germany. He has played for numerous clubs in Germany – SC Bamberg, Karlsruhe, Darmstadt, Bayreuth, SCW Weismain, TSV Gerbrun, FC Schweinfurt (three spells), FC Hassfurt, TSV Gerbrun and VfL Euerbach. Skoric played into his forties before retiring around 2009. He would never play internationally after the tournament.
16. Dejan Antonic (Defender, Red Star Belgrade)
Another squad member whose career didn’t quite reach the same heights as the likes of Suker and Prosinecki, Antonic would never play senior international football. He remained at Red Star until 1991 when he joined FK Napredak for a season before a spell with Belgian side Beveren. He returned to Yugoslavia in 1994 with FK Obilic before making the leap to sign for Indonesian side Persebaya Surabaya in 1995. Antonic found himself a home in Indonesia and remained in the country, moving around clubs such as Persita Tangerang and Persema Malang before leaving for Hong Kong in 1998. There he played for Instant-Dict, Rangers, Sun Hei and Kitchee before retiring in 2005. He immediately became manager of Kitchee and has since coached in Eastern Asia with the Hong Kong national team, TSW Pegasus, Shatin, Tai Chung, Tuen Mun, Arema Indonesia, Pro Duta FC and current club Persipasi Bandung Raya whom he joined in 2013.
17. Slavisa Djurkovic (Defender, Sutjeska)
Djurkovic is another fringe player at the tournament that struggled afterwards. His career stalled at second tier Sutjeska and his football career was really ruined by the Yugoslav war. He left Sutjeska in 1990 but spells with Leotar and Jedinstvo were not successful and he retired after a stint with Buducnost. He has done some coaching at FC Polent Stars and Sutjeska and obtained a UEFA ‘A’ Licence for coaching in 2011, the same year he and Ranko Zirojevic were denied a pension by Montenegrin authorities for their sport-related achievements.
18. Ranko Zirojevic (Midfielder, Sutjeska)
The current assistant boss at FC Mogren of Monetenegro has had a very similar career to his ex-teammate and pension rejectee Djurkovic. Zirojevic too saw his career stall at Sutjeska after a move to Buducnost fell through and the Yugoslav war started. Zirojevic left Sutjeska in 1992 and had three spells with FC Mogren as well as stints in Greece with Ehtnikos and Slovenia with Maribor before reitiring in 1997.
Mirko Jozic (Manager)
Croatian Jozic was a veteran of Yugoslav youth football having been in the set-up since 1972 and would leave in 1988. He was appointed boss of Chilean giants Colo-Colo in 1989 and led them to the Copa Libertadores in 1991 and the only coach to win the tournament with a Chilean side. He left his position in 1993 and went on to have spells with Chile, Club Amercia of Mexico, Hajduk Split, Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia, Newell’s Old Boys of Argentina, Sporting Lisbon of Portugal and Croatia which was his last job in senior management which he left after the 2002 World Cup. He also had a stint with Dinamo Zagreb’s youth in 2006 and has not had any work since.
That is all for this edition of “Where Are They Now?” Stay tuned for another edition in a week’s time and of course other content on The Long Ball.