Shanghai Shenhua coach Miroslav Blažević has launched an absolutely scathing attack on critics of his team’s mediorce performances of late.
Speaking on Shenhua’s official news channel on the clubs website, a clearly vexed and extremely animated Blažević fumes at unnamed detractors, claiming that Shenhua are performing well above expectations so far this season, despite trailing leaders Shandong Luneng by nine points.
The video itself is worth a watch even if you don’t speak Serbo-Croat or Mandarin. The 75-year-old Bosnaian Croat begins the interview quite calmly. He says his aim to win the championship has not changed. He adds that, if you change your goal and aim to be third, then you may end up being sixth, or lower.
He talks about his time as manager of the Croatian national side, when he led them to an tremendous 3rd place at the 1998 World Cup: “At the 1998 World Cup, I went there to win it. All the people in Croatia thought their coach was crazy. But if I didn’t aim to be world cup winner, then we wouldn’t have been third. Ｉ mean this sincerely.” Blažević goes on to say that, if he had god’s blessing, he would have been victorious overall.
He then goes on to discuss league leaders Shandong Luneng, the meaning isn’t clear but he refers to watching a video of their performance, possibly against Shenhua in July, saying that Shandong were victorious because their players exceeded themselves. He goes on to stress that at Shenhua, ‘the atmosphere in the dressing room is perfect.’
He questions the commitment of some players, but doesn’t specify which ones. He singles out young midfielder Song Bo Xuan (宋博轩) for praise, as he repeatedly asks the coaching team for the opportunity to “sacrifice himself” on the pitch.
Around half way through the broadcast, Blažević becomes very upset, to the point of leaving his chair to make a few points on camera. This takes the cameraman by surprise and we are treated to a close-up of Blažević’s torso whilst the picture is re-adjusted.
Later Blažević returns to a seated position, but his disposition remains heated.
He says, “The agreement was I would work here one more year so I will clarify something. In a word, the atmosphere here is perfect. If it’s not, if you think not, then just wait a while, I will change the team totally, because I am a perfectionist.”
Visibly pained, he says, “I can’t sleep because I’m not in a very good situation, I’m frustrated, thinking about myself and my assistant, because something here is quite special. If you win all the games, no-one will say much. If you lose one game, then some useful comments can come.”
Around three quarters through, he shouts, “You should know at the very beginning we are not the favourites to win the championship. I believe everyone, everyone sitting here! (pauses) Never thought we would win the championship. No-one! But during the whole season, we have been in the top two. So its very difficult for me to accept the questioning and blame.”
Blažević continues by thanking Shenhua owner Zhu Jun for his patience and support, and concludes by saying he will go into the rest of the season with confidence.
Your correspondent believes this outburst puts Blažević in a good light. He does indeed appear to be a perfectionist. Afterall, he is a man with a long and distinguished managerial career at the top level of football, yet here he is upset and angry about criticism of his progress at Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League – in football terms, a far cry from finishing 3rd at the World Cup with Croatia.
Many of his points are in fact correct. Shenhua have performed above expectations this season, including those of your correspondent. The club made so many changes to their squad over the close reason, getting rid of many established stars, and the prediction from many was that they would be doing well to get a place in the Asian Champions League by finishing at least 4th. That goal looks assured at this point. However Blažević is suffering because the critics are frustrated at what appears to be a typical Shenhua problem – not being able to win games when the team appears to be more than talented enough.
At any rate, its good to see Blažević put some passion into Chinese football. Because outside of the terraces, it appears to be sadly lacking.
Meanwhile, later today Shenhua take on Jiangsu Shuntian as the squad go for a drink in the last-chance saloon bar, whilst leaders Shandong go for their 10th victory in their last 13 games against Shenzhen.
There’s a big game at the other end of the table, as Chongqing take on Nanchang, whilst Tianjin v Dalian and Henan v Shannxi are two games with all four particpants in with a shout of grabbing a top 4 and Asian Champions League (ACL) place.
Tomorrow, Qingdao host Changchun in a relegation battle, Hangzhou take on Liaoning at home in another ACL battle, whilst Beijing Guoan face a tricky away tie in Changsha.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015