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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

Manager Series: Vladimir Petković

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

Vladimir Petkovic was born in Sarajevo, on 15 August, 1963.

He is Bosnian but also has Swiss and Croatian Citizenship (he is of Croatian origin). The Swiss connection is due to the fact that in 1987 he moved there.

He started his football career in Yugoslavia for Igman Iliddža and then in 1978, Sarajevo. In 1981 he made his debut but only played 8 league games over three seasons. He then spent a season each with Rudar Ljubija from Prijedor in Bosnia (15 games, 7 goals), back to Sarajevo (2 games), Koper in Slovenia (14 games, 4 goals), Sarajevo again (17 games, 3 goals).

In 1987, as mentioned, he moved to Switzerland and joined first F.C Chur in the second division and then in 1988 Sion (6 games) in the first division. He then spent a year at Martigny (31 games, 8 goals), three seasons back at F.C Chur (87 games, 19 goals), three seasons at Bellinzona (63 games, 8 goals), a season at Locarno (32 games, 3 goals), another season at Bellinzona (player manager) and one at Buochs before retiring in 1999 at 36.

As a player he was a midfielder and was technical for his height (1.90) but never played at top levels. He was what Italians call "un giocatore onesto" (an average player).

His career as a manager would be more high flying. He started off in Switzerland with Bellinzona in 1997 as mentioned and finished 8th in the First League (3rd tier). Between 1999 and 2004 he coached Malcantone Agno where, in 2003, he won the First League and promotion to the Challenge League. The following year he took The White V's to 4th place, going close to another promotion.

In 2004 he became manager of AC Lugano (a merger between Malcantone Agno and FC Lugano) in the Challenge League and finished 8th.

In 2005 he went back to Bellinzona for three seasons. In the first ACB came 9th, then 2nd (lost playoff to Aarau) and in the third won promotion to the Super League, in a playoff against San Gallo. In his last season they also reached the Swiss Cup Final but lost to Basel.

In August 2009 he took over at Young Boys, from Berne. From the sixth game onwards he replaced Martin Andermatt. In the first season YB came 2nd as they did in the following season while in the third he was replaced in May.

Petković then left Switzerland and went for a Turkish experience. He signed for Samsunspor in the Super League. His adventure on the Black Sea with "Kirmizi Şimşekler" (The Red Lightning) was not a success and in January after 22 matches (W4, D7 and L11) he was replaced.

In May he returned to work in Switzerland for Sion in the Super League. In 4 matches he won 1 and lost 3 and Sion finished 9th.

In 2012 came a surprise move. Lazio owner Claudio Lotito announced that the new coach was the relatively unknown (maybe take away the relatively… at least in Italy) Vladimir Petkovic. He signed a two-year contract and on 6 June was presented to the media.

Lazio started well in the league and after half the fixture list the Biancocelesti were 2nd. They had also won the derby 3-2, beaten Inter home and away, Milan and drawn away at Juventus. In the second half however they faded and ended up 7th, drawing the second derby 1-1. They reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League but were beaten by Fenerbahçe in controversial circumstances (one of worst refereeing performances I have ever seen against Lazio).

The Coppa Italia was a different and happier story. Lazio eliminated Siena on penalties (1-1 with 95th minute Michaël Ciani equaliser), Catania 3-0, Juventus 3-2 on aggregate and set up a historic Cup Final against arch rivals Roma.

The rest has become legend. Senad Lulic scored in the 71st minute (a number etched in Roman history for eternity) and gave Lazio an epic win over their hated "Cugini" rivals. Petkovic became a hero for life on the Biancoceleste side of town.

The following season was less successful. Lazio lost the Supercoppa final to Juventus 0-4. In Serie A after 17 matches Lazio were 10th on 20 points and had lost a derby. The Bosnian had already signed for Switzerland's national side anyway, from July 2014 onwards, so Lotito decided to replace him with Edy Reja. For the record Lazio finished 9th.

So, Petkovic started his Swiss national coach adventure which, seeing his background, was an offer he could not refuse. In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil the Red Crosses reached the Round of 16 but were beaten in extra-time by Argentina with an Angel Di Maria goal in the 118th minute.

Switzerland then qualified for Euro 2016. They managed to make the last 16 after 3 draws (Albania, Romania, France) but then lost to Poland on penalties.

They also qualified for the Russian World Cup of 2018. In the group phase they drew 1-1 with Brazil, beat Serbia 2-1 and drew 2-2 with Costa Rica but were again eliminated in the last 16, this time by Sweden 0-1.

In 2019 Switzerland qualified for the final four of the UEFA Nations League but lost to Portugal 1-3 and England on penalties, so finishing 4th.

They qualified for Euro 2020 (played in 2021 due to Covid 19). They got through the group phase (Italy 0-3, Wales 1-1 and Turkey 2-1), then surprisingly knocked out France on penalties (after a 3-3 draw) but were eventually eliminated by Spain on penalties (after a 1-1 draw). It was Switzerland's best ever result in a European Championship. At this point Petkovic left the position to Murat Yakin.

In 2021 he signed for Bordeaux in France. He lasted 24 games (W5, D8, L12) with the Girondins before being replaced by David Guion. "Les Marines et Blancs" were eventually relegated to Ligue 2.

Petković is a manager who likes attacking football. His tactical preferences are 3-4-3, 5-4-1 and 4-1-4-1 (usually used at Lazio). He is known for his tactical adaptability and for being an innovator, always looking to find new solutions, also with the help of technology. He is a man of culture and is nicknamed "The Doctor", as he also speaks six languages. He is calm, well spoken and elegant making him highly respected in the football world.

He will certainly always be respected at Lazio. Respected and loved for his role in the unforgettable Coppa Italia triumph of 2013. The image of Petkovic holding Olympia (Lazio's Eagle mascot) under the delirious Curva Nord will never be cancelled. Grazie Vladimir.



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