Radomir Antic is, indubitably, a coaching legend. One of only two men to have held the reins at both Barcelona and Real Madrid, he has repeatedly masterminded unforeseen achievements, namely sparing teams from relegation, guiding Atletico Madrid to the double in 1996 and Serbia to top spot - above France - in their South Africa 2010 qualifying group. The 61-year-old has also had a plethora of outstanding players under his tutelage since entering the dugout 22 years ago, including Jose Chilavert, Michel, Emilio Butragueno, Robert Prosinecki, Gheorghe Hagi, Fernando Hierro, Diego Simeone, Christian Vieri, Juninho, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Aleksandr Mostovoi, Luis Enrique, Xavi, Juan Roman Riquelme and Andres Iniesta and Dejan Stankovic.
Antic was born in Zitiste in the former Yugoslavia and, despite only one cap at international level, he flourished on the club front. A cultured defender who was a goal threat from corners, he spent eight seasons at Partizan, helping them to the league title in his final year, before playing overseas at Fenerbahce, Zaragoza and Luton Town.
Antic did his coaching badges in Belgrade and started out as an assistant at Partizan, before beginning his first full job at Zaragoza in 1988. In his first term in Aragon, he led Los Blanquillos, pre-season relegation favourites, to an improbable fifth-placed finish and into the UEFA Cup.
A Real Madrid team in crisis came calling in March 1991. Antic responded by inspiring them from seventh when he took over to third by the campaign’s conclusion. However, despite Los Merengues being in positive form in the 1991/92 season, he was surprisingly sacked by the insatiable capital giants in January.
Antic’s next stop was Oviedo, whom he helped, against the odds, survive relegation in 1993. He also thrust them to unforeseen back-to-back ninth-placed finishes in La Liga, before moving on to take charge of Atletico Madrid for the 1995/96 season. It would prove to be one of the greatest in the club’s history. Indeed, despite only surviving the drop by one point the previous campaign, Los Rojiblancos, with Simeone, Jose Luis Caminero and Kiko starring, stormed to their first league title since 1977 and also won the Copa del Rey.
Antic was, to the Atletico fans’ chagrin, dismissed in 1998 but had two more brief spells at their helm before returning to Oviedo in 2000. Unfortunately for the former defender, his lone campaign back in Asturias ended in demotion to the Spanish second flight.
That did not dissuade Barcelona from making him Louis van Gaal’s successor in January 2003. The Catalan heavyweights were 16th in La Liga when Antic arrived in their hot-seat, but finished up in sixth.
Antic left Camp Nou before 2003/04 kicked off, and lasted only nine games at Celta Vigo during that season. After more than four years out of the game, he became Serbia coach in August 2008.
Placed in a difficult FIFA World Cup qualifying group also comprising the mighty France, Romania and Austria, many felt the Beli Orlovi’s best hope of a ticket to South Africa would be via the play-offs. Antic had other ideas, however, and duly led his team to top spot and an automatic berth among the sport’s elite.