Sinisa Mihajlovic, the former Serbia national team manager and an iconic figure of 1990s Serie A football, has died at the age of 53.
He was most recently head coach at Bologna, where in his second spell with the club he spent over three and a half years in charge, despite being diagnosed with leukaemia in 2019.
Mihajlovic remained in the job throughout his battle with cancer and had a bone marrow transplant that same year, which allowed a partial recovery. But he revealed earlier this year that he was at “risk of a reappearance of the disease” and would try to stay ahead of it with treatment.
However, he sadly lost his battle with leukaemia on Friday, with former club Red Star Belgrade confirming his passing.
“It is with great regret that we inform the stars that the legendary Siniša Mihajlović has left us today,” the club’s Twitter account wrote. “A great star and a man with an incredible heart and strength died at the age of 53. Our club expresses its deepest condolences to the Mihajlovic family.”
The left-footed defender was renowned in his playing days for unerring free-kicks and combustible style, while during his managerial stints he was famed for frequent run-ins with both players and administrative staff. He remains one of only two players to date to score a hat-trick comprised solely of free-kicks in Italy’s top flight.
His most memorable spells came with Lazio and Sampdoria, but he also played for Roma and Inter Milan in Italy, as well as Red Star and Vojvodina in his home country. At international level, Mihajlovic played 63 times for first Yugoslavia and later Serbia and Montenegro, scoring 10 goals.
Later as he moved into management, he continued to work mainly in Italy, taking sole charge at Bologna, Catania, Fiorentina, Sampdoria, AC Milan and Torino between 2008 and 2018. He was also the Serbian national team coach for 19 games across mid 2012 to late 2013. His first club job outside of Serie A came with Portuguese side Sporting CP, before Mihajlovic returned to Bologna in early 2019.
He was sacked from his last job only in September, with Bologna at the time labelling his departure “unfortunately […] inevitable, despite the strong bond of affection that has been created with the club and the entire city in these emotional and dramatic three-and-a-half years.”
The legendary Italian defender Franco Baresi was one of several to tweet his condolences after news of Mihajlovic’s death broke, saying “goodbye warrior, you fought head high to the end. A real man.”
Midfielder Riccardo Montolivo said: “You fought on the pitch and in life with determination and dignity. There are no words… it was an honour to meet you and work together.”