Nikola Kalinić Named New Hajduk Sports Director

Daniela Rogulj

Photo: Ivana Ivanovic/PIXSELL

May 27, 2024 – Nikola Kalinić has been appointed the new sports director of Hajduk Split.

Hajduk introduced the club’s new sports director on Monday morning – Nikola Kalinić. The now former sports director Mindaugas Nikoličius officially left Hajduk yesterday, and the former striker of Blackburn, Dnipro, Fiorentina, Milan, Atletico Madrid, Roma and Verona takes over his role.

The first to speak at the press conference was the club president, Ivan Bilić.

“I thank Nikoličius, and the new sports director of the club is Nikola Kalinić. He is a legend of the club. His greatest value is that he is a hard worker. He loves the club more than anyone else. He has invaluable experience at major clubs and contacts that will be of great help to us. He is honest, direct and stubborn, which will be positive,” Bilić said and added that Kalinić will become the backbone of the club’s sports committee.

“All decisions in the domain of the sports director will be his and he will bear the responsibility. I wish him luck, success and a quality relationship with the coach and the Administration,” he added.

“Thanks to everyone at the club who made it possible for me to be the sports director of such a big club. My football career is over, and new challenges are ahead of me. Maybe someone thinks I’m inexperienced, but for this position, my football acquaintances and knowledge are important. The first goal is to bring in a coach as soon as possible, hopefully at the end of next week,” Kalinić said.

“We want to introduce a code of conduct. It doesn’t matter what someone’s name is. Everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, will respect it. I had problems with behavior in my career, but I paid for it. So will others,” he added.

How many candidates are there for the new Hajduk coach?
“I talked to a few. I want a winning coach, someone who will insist on work and discipline. The most important thing is the result and I will aim for Hajduk to fight for first place. No euphoria. I won’t promise that, but Hajduk is used to winning and I want a good team, a good coach and to fight for first place.”

Marko Livaja and Ivan Perišić – will they stay?
“There is no official offer for Livaja, and he has a contract. He is staying. I want him motivated. Perišić is under contract until the end of August. We want him, but the decision is up to him. Brekalo is under contract with Fiorentina, and his desire is important. The problem is also the money he earns with Fiorentina.”

Coach Zlatko Dalić once said that he would be third with the juniors. How do you comment on that?
“Everyone has the right to their opinion. If he is thinking about the future, let him play Baturina instead of Modrić at the European Championships.”

When will the member of the sports administration arrive and will he be Kalinić’s superior?
“His primary goal is strategy. The sports director and the coach determine how the first team works, and the member of the Board will have other tasks,” said the club president.

Tomorrow is 19 years since Hajduk’s last title. Will the tradition be broken next year?
“No one can promise that we will be champions. Diego Simeone has never made such announcements. With sports, it doesn’t matter what will happen in half a year or a year. The goal is first place and to win the Cup, but who can promise that? You have to be humble and go from game to game, otherwise it will be a disappointment like this season,” said Kalinić. Bilić added that work and discipline will increase and that the result should be the result of that.

What are the reactions and what are the plans?
“The reactions are positive and everyone supports me. They know it will be demanding, but I am not afraid. I will do my best to bring something new. Former and current players are with me. They are happy. They know what I will ask of them. They are familiar with everything and they have to stick to it. Football is a collective sport, we depend on each other. That’s the only way to do something.”

Will the coach be a foreigner or Croatian?
“I’m contacting everyone and we’ll decide. The language barrier needs to be solved. If he’s going to be our coach, he won’t be speaking in English to please foreigners. They have three months to learn the language or let them manage like I did.

The players will get a translator, and later let them figure it out. We pay them, they have to show respect for the club. That doesn’t mean they won’t play, but let them ask. No one helped me either.”

How to ensure the flow of juniors through the senior team?
“Junior and senior football are two different sports. I was the best junior and I couldn’t get to the first team, but I went on loan. Young people have to prove themselves to be the leaders of Hajduk’s game. Vušković is an example. We gave him three games in a week and then we almost had to hide him to sell him. Young players should be called up, not thrown into the fire.”

What will be the main goal when bringing players?
“I will not bring them for the sake of order. It is better that no one comes, and not that we have problems with the disposal of players. I will not bring them by force, whoever comes must be a reinforcement. We need a #9, a striker. It is unclear to me that people think Livaja is that – he is a #10. We also need a midfielder, but we will not accumulate players by force.”

The club president answered the question about the budget for new players.

“It will be similar to last year, maybe a little better. It has been growing in recent years, and the projection is that it will be the same or a little bigger. The goal is not to break the bank, but to leave the team in a similar or better position than it was last year.”

Can peace be brought into the Hajduk dressing room?
“That’s the key to everything. The foundations have to be good, and the players know that I will change them. I don’t care what anyone’s name is, the rules of conduct must be respected. As for the injured, that’s fine. But if the doctor says that the player can train, but he doesn’t want to, he will have therapy from 8 am to 8 pm. He can’t be injured and walk around town.”

Will Sigur, Pukštas, and Sahiti remain?
“It is too early to talk about it. If an offer comes, we will sit down and talk. I hope that the skeleton of the team will remain,” said Kalinić, and Bilić added:

“According to the current projections, it is likely that one player will be sold. We don’t want to mention it now. We have a projected amount and have until the end of the transfer window in September. We will know everything by then. Strategically, we do not want to sell young players.”

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