(photo credit: REUTERS)
It took longer than Maccabi Tel Aviv had hoped, but the wait to bring in a new coach ultimately proved worthwhile after the yellow-and-blue got its man, signing Serbian Slavisa Jokanovic.
The 46-year-old led Watford to English Premier League promotion last season, but his contract was not renewed, with the Hornets reportedly refusing to meet his demands for a £1.2 million pay rise.
Jokanovic was linked with moves to Sunderland and Newcastle, but missed out on both jobs and chose to accept Maccabi’s offer estimated at 800,000 euros per season, not including a hefty one million euro bonus for Champions League group stage qualification.
Maccabi, which parted ways with Pako Ayestaran despite claiming an unprecedented domestic treble, will already begin its pre-season training next week, with the three-time defending Israeli champ to start its continental campaign in the Champions League second qualifying round in mid-July.
Maccabi sports director Jordi Cruyff was desperate to sign a coach at least one month before the team’s first official match and he waited for Jokanovic until the end of his self-imposed deadline.
“We are extremely pleased to secure the services of Slavisa especially after his recent success and the obvious interest of other clubs after his successful campaign in the English Championship,” said Maccabi owner Mitch Goldhar.
“He is an experienced coach and is equipped to take Maccabi to the next stage of the club’s development. There is no doubt that his playing career including international appearances and his managerial roles since 2007 will assist Maccabi in both our domestic and European challenges.”
Jokanovic started his playing career at Novi Sad before joining Vojvodina and then moving on to Belgrade giant Partizan.
A switch to Spain saw the defensive midfielder sign for Real Oviedo, Tenerife, Deportivo La Coruna, at which he won a La Liga championship, and Chelsea before a return to Spain to play for Murcia where he retired in 2004.
Jokanovic’s coaching career began with Partizan in 2007, winning two consecutive doubles, before moving on to Thailand outfit Muangthong United, Levski Sofia of Bulgaria, Spanish side Hercules and Watford.
“Maccabi did a very good job last season winning the treble, but the team wants to improve and continue building and I want to improve as well. This will be a great challenge for both me and the club,” Jokanovic told the club’s website.
“My coaching philosophy is simple, we will be a dominating team, but no one from the players to coaches will be a dominating force within the club. Maccabi wants to take important steps in Europe and it’s our dream to make it to the Champions League.”