Igor Duljaj, former Partizan, Sevastopol and Shakhtar Donetsk player and assistant coach at Shakhtar Donetsk, came back where he started his football journey as a 10-year-old, joining Savo Milosevic`s coaching team this winter.
-I honestly can`t believe this has happened. Last year, I was here in Turkey with Shakhtar and in my wildest dreams I didn`t see this happen. For years, my thoughts and my job were all to do with Shakhtar. Some things happen in the meantime and I`m back where I started now.
New Partizan assistant coach revealed how his return to the home club happened.
-Paulo Fonseca left Shakhtar for Roma. New boss came along with his assistants and I returned to Belgrade. Lots of people didn`t know I was here actually. I`m in touch with my former Partizan teammates and I visited Partizan offices with people asking me what`s going on, who I am working for. They were surprised to hear I left Ukraine. I planned to get some rest but I got a call from Partizan and they wanted me to join club`s coaching team with approval of Savo Milosevic.
Actually, Partizan enquired about Duljaj last September.
-We agreed back then to wait for the winter break as it seemed not appropriate to make changes during congested and tense calendar. I promised to come down for a chat once the winter break kicks-off and here we are now.
Igor Duljaj signed a contract on 19th of December and joined team winter preps on 12th of January.
-We started training few days ago and, to be honest, I`m more of an observer so far, I`m getting to know the player although I watched them all play previously but it`s not the same when you are on the stands and next to them on training pitch. I m learning how things work here. There`s plenty of time ahead of us, we`ll see how it`s going to look in the future. I`m here to help and that`s what matters, I`m here to do what boss asks me to do, not to be in charge of club`s politics.
Serbian football scene is not looking good at the moment, although Partizan and Crvena Zvezda are achieving some fine results in European competitions.
-More of the same can be said for Ukraine, quality of football is not as good as it used to be. Only Shakhtar, Dynamo Kyiv and few more clubs manage to keep their level. When I played in Serbia we had only two foreign players – Taribo West and Tomasz Rzasa. Most of the team played together for years, we were not sold early and young players were here for a long time. Now we have regular coach changes and players go abroad early with lots of new players signed in each transfer window. There`s no continuity. As soon as bad results occur, we have dramatic changes. Pressure is huge and everyone expects fine results, especially from Partizan and Crvena Zvezda.
What`s crucial for success?
-We can go on and talk about anyone being able to beat you these days or talk about importance of the budget. Money is important but back in 2003 Newcastle and Real Madrid had far bigger budget than Partizan and we handled them. It takes time! Coach needs support, club needs to back him. We are aware that we survive on transfers but we need to keep some players as long as possible. Foreign arrivals are investments and they are expected to make a difference for the fee they were signed. Shakhtar signs young player and they prepare the lad for his playing position for a year or even more. Biggest problem we have here is that everything changes fast. We have no patience.
Duljaj has enough experience as assistant coach and he would like to take full charge one day.
-I started at Shakhtar B followed by 3 years as assistant to Paulo Fonseca, I had a privilege to learn from this guy. I`m not scared of chief coach challenges at all. But, I move forward gradually, just as I did as a player. I`m not rushing things, it`s important what I know and what I don`t know. I`m learning every day and there`s lots of things I need to handle with time.
Savo Milosevic stated the importance of Duljaj`s opinion as addition to the Partizan coaching team.
-More heads around can only be of benefit. In Shakhtar, I had a freedom to say what I think. It`s important there`s no vanity around and I know Milosevic has none. We can agree or not but it`s boss who has the final word. At the end of the day, everything we do has to be in the interest of the club and I don`t see a reason why anyone would be around just to approve anything said and done.
Duljaj had a ready advice for young players.
-It`s so different today, life is fast, player`s agents are all around and parents behave differently as well. Unfortunately, everyone looks to move on after six months with the club. I will tell youngsters what I did in Shakhtar – it`s all about patience and moving forward gradually. They need to be ready to grab their opportunity, they have to be professional on and off the pitch, to work on themselves in all departments.