Serie A legend Sinisa Mihajlovic dies aged 53 after battle with leukemia

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Sinisa Mihajlovic died Friday at the age of 53 after a battle with leukemia. His wife and family shared the news on Friday. The Serbian football legend had forced him to work from hospital for the past few months while coaching Bologna FC, his last club as a manager. As a player, Mihajlovic played for Vojvodina, Red Star Belgrade, AS Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio, Inter Milan and Yugoslavia. He was famous for his incredible left foot and thunderous direct free kicks. During his career as a defender he scored over 100 goals and after his retirement he immediately started working alongside his former teammate and friend Roberto Mancini who was also his coach at Inter Milan. Mihajlovic became his assistant at Inter, then started his career as a first-team coach and managed Catania, Fiorentina, Serbia, Sampdoria, AC Milan, Turin and Bologna.

In July 2019, Sinisa Mihajlovic shocked the world and announced that he had been diagnosed with leukemia. He never left his role as director and continued to work from the hospital. He decided to surprise his team and the whole football community and was on the bench for the first match of the 2019-20 season against Hellas Verona, despite his physical condition. After positive treatment, he returned to the bench the following year. Mihajlovic’s second stint at Bologna ended in September when the club dismissed him after a poor start.

In March 2022 he announced he had to resume treatment and his condition worsened in the last few weeks before he died in Rome, surrounded by his family.

Mihajlovic’s legacy is complicated. He lived through the aftermath of the 1990s war in Yugoslavia and was also criticized for his relationship with Serbian paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, whom he knew from his time at the Red Star of Belgrade. While already living in Italy, Mihajlovic still had his family in Serbia. He was friends with many footballers and managers and had a special friendship with his former manager Vujadin Boskov, and he always considered him an example to follow since he started his coaching career.

When Boskov was the coach of AS Roma, it was Mihajlovic who suggested he play a talented youngster in the academy. “We bring this kid with us – he recalled – he is good, if it goes well with us we will start him. We were winning 2-0 (against Brescia) there were 15 minutes left to play, I think approached the bench and asked the coach to put it on”. That kid was Francesco Totti.

“Goodbye boss, you will always live in our hearts,” Bologna said in a Tweeter.

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