Slaven Bilić Advises His Hajduk through Everton

Daniela Rogulj

Slaven Bilić comments on the battle between his two former clubs, Hajduk and Everton. 

“Everton is expected to pass, but no one said it would be easy! No one close to Everton has underestimated Hajduk, and not by accident because Hajduk is a famous name on this island and has been a respected club since ancient times. Okay, I say that Everton is expected to pass, but without any harm,” said Slaven Bilić, coach of West Ham United in London for Slobodna Dalmacija on August 7, 2017. 

Bilić continues:

“Do you know what matters to them? They get to go to the Mediterranean, that makes them happy. They know Split, and they are glad that they don’t have to go somewhere else, like Celtic who has to go to Kazakhstan to play Astana, a trip of horror. Their arrival in the Adriatic is great, and Hajduk is a renowned club and a desirable destination.”

Slaven Bilić is a Hajduk legend, the winner of the bronze medal with Croatia in World Cup ’98, and a stopper and coach of Hajduk. In his career he also played for Everton, coming to Goodison Park in 1997 after which he returned to Hajduk again in 2000.

Today, Bilić has a place in the Premier League, leading West Ham in the race to the top for the third season in a row. Who better to advise Hajduk through Everton? Here are his thoughts on the upcoming duel. 

West Ham and Manchester City faced one another in Reykjavik on Friday for a “business match” at the wish of their sponsor. Although West Ham lost to Guardiola’s Manchester City 0:3, Bilić believes this is something Hajduk can learn from. 

“We were on the pitch where we were supposed to be; everything was where it needed to be. We closed them all, but they got between us – De Bruyne, Sane, Silva, Aguero, are better players than us. That is where Hajduk will have a problem, they must find a way to close them all on the pitch, and if they find the space, they will know what to do with it.”

But Everton is not Manchester City?

“No. And there’s a chance. Everton is primarily a combat team. Who knows what will happen? They are a little defeated now, winning only 1:0 against Ružomberok both times. I did not watch the games because I do not like to look at them over “streams,” – they stop, and I get nervous. I’m more for old TV broadcasts. But, do not count out Everton now. We know that it is no longer the ‘Big Five’ teams of the past which disrupted the balance of the league with money coming from the East. There are Chelsea and Man. City, but Everton is a classic English football team. And good. Always better.”

Do you follow Hajduk?

“Certainly, Hajduk is in my blood. My god, we are all following, and we immediately commented on the draw here. Jura, Rak and I. I know Hajduk plays well and seriously, and I follow. I was in contact with my brother Domagoj and Ivo Cuzzi, and Vučević. Everyone has said that Hajduk started off well.”

Can there be uncertainty?

“Of course! This is where Hajduk needs to set up the game. When they have the ball and attack, one or two actions out of ten will work, so they must pass. Carrillo apparently collaborates with the team well, and in all of these desperate games there are two or three surprises, so why can’t Hajduk be one of them?”

And perhaps Everton won’t go from Europa League so easy?

“And no, for sure they will not. It will be interesting. Ronald Koeman said before the start of the season that Europa League is of great interest for them.”

Have they traded enough players to change their composition?

“The question now is how Everton will look in the match after selling Lukaku. That was their problem because Lukaku was in every game. He scored 25 goals. Everything was based around Lukaku! He was everything. A goal getter but also a player with the ball. He was the orientation, the backbone, the shooter; he would continue the action. Goals, setting up the game, counter attack – it was all him. And now everything has to be different, and that’s not easy.”

Have they taken in a lot of new players?

“Ramirez from Malaga came in, he was at Barcelona and we wanted him, but he chose Everton. He is a quick player and has no traits like Lukaku. Rooney came in, he is a legend in his own way, he has returned to his club, but he is not Lukaku. They would also like to bring in Sigurdsson from Swansea, an Icelander who is a good player.”

Bilić continued on Everton’s squad:

“In the middle of them is Gueye, he is something like Kante, and had the largest number of stolen balls in the last championship. And Schneiderlin keeps the balance of the game. They have an excellent left-back Baines, but they are missing a right-back because Coleman, a representative of Ireland, was hurt against Wales, so that is where Martin plays, a player Koeman brought in. The second stopper is Jagielka, a renowned international. They have a set of terrific players. But, Hajduk will look for their chance and that’s football, you can always find it.”

“Goodison is like the Hajduk Stari plac, a domestic stadium that has not been renovated and is a relic of the old English football stadiums of romantic times. The audience there can almost touch you. The atmosphere is fascinating. Just as Hajduk is twice as strong in their backyard, Goodison Park gives Everton more power. It is a host stadium in the full sense of the word. It was our Upton Park from West Ham. And we are now in the largest area of England at the Olympic Stadium. The rest of the stadiums in England have been renovated, but nobody has that old-fashioned charm like Goodison. So when they attack you, you cling to your breed. The field is of standard dimensions, but it looks smaller, and the goals look bigger, and there could be 100 interruptions, and 100 shots and goals just seem to happen. This is a danger to Hajduk. No one likes to go to Goodison.”

Hajduk will face Everton in Liverpool on August 17th and at Poljud on August 24th. 

Translated from Slobodna Dalmacija 


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