‘Life's too short for bad moods’ perfectly sums up the philosophy on life espoused by hard-running veteran Hasan Salihamidzic. Known since he was a boy simply as Brazzo, which roughly translates as ‘cheeky lad’, the player is a naturally upbeat character with a smile almost permanently on his lips.
Interviewed exclusively by FIFA.com, the Bosnian was true to form and answered our first question with a snappy quip. We wanted to know whether his current club Wolfsburg would be his last. “I’m always good for a surprise," he shot back.
Whatever happens in the future, the 35-year-old can reflect on a colourful and impressive career. His collection includes winner’s medals from the Intercontinental Cup, six German championships and four German Cups, all earned in nine seasons with Bavarian giants Bayern Munich from 1998 until 2007. Unsurprisingly, compared to spells with Hamburg, Juventus and Wolfsburg, his fondest memories date from his time with Germany's biggest club, where he still holds the record for the most appearances by a non-German: “It's where I was most successful and also won the Champions League," he said.
Return to the Bundesliga
Fully 11 years have passed since Bayern’s shoot-out triumph against Valencia in Europe's elite club competition, when Salihamidzic was a key member of the team spearheaded by Oliver Kahn and Stefan Effenberg. “It was a very significant victory. I guess every player dreams of lifting the trophy just once," recalled Salihamidzic, who scored his penalty in the nerve shredding shoot-out in Milan on 23 May 2001.
A constant theme at Bayern this season is the club’s dream of contesting the final on their home ground and securing a first European trophy since 2001. For his part, Salihamidzic will be following his former club’s progress from relatively close by. After four seasons with Juventus from 2007 to 2011, Brazzo returned to the Bundesliga last summer to try his luck with the Wolves. He won nothing in Italy and only made 61 appearances for La Vecchia Signora, but still feels his time there was valuable: “I had lots of fun in Italy. I learned a new language and made lots of new friends. It's an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world, and which will always be part of me now," he said.
One of the reasons for switching to Lower Saxony was head coach Felix Magath, who nurtured Salihamidzic in Hamburg and brought the best out of him in Munich. “Naturally, I was delighted when Felix Magath gave me a call. His teams are always physically fit, and I hope our high level of fitness pays off at the end of the season," the midfielder observed.
Unfulfilled hopes in national colours
The 35-year-old has basically achieved all there is to achieve at club level, but his career for Bosnia-Herzegovina yielded little by way of success. He won a first senior cap way back in 1996 when he was just 19, but after scoring six goals in 43 appearances, he chose to retire from the national team in 2006. “It's definitely a shame we never appeared at a major tournament," the midfielder reflected, an unmistakable tinge of regret in his voice as he contemplated what might have been in a national shirt.
However, even without the tireless midfield workhorse, the nation holding a creditable 21st position in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking have yet to grace a FIFA World Cup™ or UEFA EURO. The current Bosnian crop, blessed with proven talent in the shape of Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and Zvjezdan Misimovic, have stumbled at the play-off stage twice in a row. “I’d really like the current generation to take part in a major tournament very soon,” Brazzo stated.
The Bosnians missed out on UEFA EURO 2012, so it seems unlikely that Salihamidzic will witness this event during his own playing career. He is only contracted to Wolfsburg until the summer. What happens next? All he can do is repeat the answer he gave at the start of our conversation: “I’m always good for a surprise."
On the other hand, the player has firm plans for the time after hanging up his boots. “After I stop playing, the thing I want to do most is look after my family, and enjoy time with my wife and kids," he smiled. After almost 20 years at the top, it is a pleasure he has surely earned – although the time may not quite be right just yet.