Former Yugoslavia, Lazio and Inter Milan footballer and ex-AC Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has died at the age of 53 following a fight with leukaemia.
Mihajlovic has succumbed to his illness following a struggle of over three years having still been in the dug-out at Italian club Bologna just three months ago.
He passed away in a clinic in Rome on Friday. In a tribute by the Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, Mihajlovic was described as ‘the man who was born twice’, living two lives before and after his leukaemia diagnosis but with the same warrior spirit.
Sinisa Mihajlovic, pictured when Bologna boss, has died aged 53 following a battle with leukaemia
Mihajlovic pictured during the heyday of his playing career at Lazio, whom he helped to a Serie A title, two Italian Cup wins and victory in the European Cup Winners’ Cup
Mihajlovic scores a penalty during Lazio’s derby match against Roma in November 1999
Mihajlovic played 63 times and scored 10 goals for Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2003, playing at both the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
His club career saw him play for Red Star Belgrade in his home country, helping them win the European Cup in 1991, before moving to Italy, where he played for prominent Serie A clubs Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter Milan.
It was his six seasons at Lazio that saw Mihajlovic achieve considerable success, helping them to the Serie A title in 1999-2000 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998-99.
He would win a second Scudetto with Inter in the 2005-06 season as well as four Italian Cups overall.
Despite being a defender, Mihajlovic was an especially potent free-kick taker, scoring some stunning goals from set-pieces during his career.
He was quoted as saying: ‘I didn’t like football all that much, but the free-kicks were great. For me, that is football. If there hadn’t been that, I might not have played.’
Mihajlovic played 63 times and scored 10 goals for Yugoslavia, playing at the 1998 World Cup
The Italian top-flight said in a tweet: ‘Lega Serie A is deeply saddened by the passing of Siniša Mihajlović, an icon of football and life.
‘His pure class as a footballer and coach, his strength and his humanity are an example that leaves an indelible mark on Italian and world football.’
Mihajlovic had been in the dug-out with Bologna as recently as three months ago.
He was first diagnosed with an acute form of leukaemia in July 2019 but continued in his coaching duties at Bologna despite undergoing a bone marrow treatment and three cycles of chemotherapy.
Announcing his diagnosis at a press conference, he said defiantly: ‘I have leukaemia but I will beat it by playing attacking.’
He is pictured in 2019 alongside the Italy coach Roberto Mancini (left) and the Italian FA president Gabriele Gravina
Unfortunately, he suffered a relapse of the disease back in March, which meant another round of treatment.
Bologna was the last stop on a coaching career that saw him also take the helm of Fiorentina, Sampdoria, AC Milan, Torino, Sporting Lisbon and the Serbia national team.
Mihajlovic was sacked by Bologna in early September following a winless opening five games of the Serie A campaign.
He didn’t wish to resign voluntarily so the club took the decision out of his hands.
Mihajlovic was sacked by Bologna after the Italian club’s winless start to the season
Club president Giuseppe Saputo said at the time: ‘It was my most difficult decision in the last eight years.
‘It was an inevitable and painful choice made for the good of the team and the club. Unfortunately there are cycles that end.’
A press release by his family read: ‘His wife Arianna, with their children Viktorija, Virginia, Miroslav, Dusan and Nikolas, their granddaughter Violante, their mother Vikyorija and their brother Drazen, in pain, communicate the unjust and premature death of their husband, father, son and exemplary brother, Sinisa Mihajlovic.
‘A unique man, an extraordinary professional, available and good to everyone. He courageously fought against a horrible disease.
‘We thank the doctors and nurses who have followed him over the years, with love and respect, especially Dr. Francesca Bonifazi, Dr. Antonio Curti, Prof. Alessandro Rambaldi, and Dr. Luca Marchetti.
Mihajlovic’s woolly hat became a familiar sign as he underwent treatment for leukaemia
Mihajlovic’s former clubs paid tribute to him on social media following his death
Sinisa will always remain with us. I live with all the love he has given us.’
In a statement posted on their website, the Serbian FA wrote: ‘Sad news for Serbian football, the region, Europe and the football world – Sinisa Mihajlovic has passed away.
‘Football has lost too soon a champion of Europe and the world, one of the best performers of free kicks in the history of football, player, coach and selector, a man who left a deep mark in the history of Serbian and Italian football with his career.’