Siniša Mihajlović, who played in the 1998 FIFA World Cup with Yugoslavia, has passed away this December 16, 2022 at the age of 53. He was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia in 2019.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino expressed his sadness at the news. “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Siniša Mihajlović, one of Serbia's most celebrated footballers and coaches. On the pitch, his free-kicks embodied a passion and dedication for the beauty of the game that left a lasting impression on the world of sport and his death is a great loss to all of us. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones during this difficult time”.
Over the course of a 12-year career with the national team, the defender appeared in 63 matches and scored 10 goals for Yugoslavia/Serbia & Montenegro. At France 1998, he scored the solitary goal with which Yugoslavia beat Iran in their tournament opener. At club level, he represented Vojvodina and Red Star Belgrade, before moving to Italy where he played for Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter Milan in Serie A between 1992 and 2006.
His reputation burgeoned not only because of his defensive qualities, but also for his great ability to score free kicks. His record of 28 free kick goals is still a Serie A record, placing him ahead of such luminaries as Andrea Pirlo and Diego Maradona.
As a coach, Siniša Mihajlović managed more than 400 games across seven different clubs. In 2012 he took charge of Serbia's national team to try to qualify for Brazil 2014. Bologna in Serie A was his final managerial post where he continued at the helm despite undergoing chemotherapy.
When his illness returned, he famously said: "My recovery after the transplant [of bone marrow in 2019] was great, but unfortunately, these diseases are devious. To prevent this from happening, I was advised to undertake a therapeutic path. This time I will not put in a slide tackle like I did two and a half years ago on an escaping opponent. I'll get a head start."
Rest in peace Siniša.