Sla visa Jokano vic (center) was unveiled as Maccabi Tel Aviv’s new head coach yesterday, posing for photos with sports director Jordi Cruyff (left) and CEO Martin Bain..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
New Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Slavisa Jokanovic believes the team needs to improve “everything” to realize its dream of reaching the Champions League group stage.
The 46-year-old Serbian was unveiled as the yellowand- blue’s new coach on the opening day of pre-season training on Tuesday and insisted he can help the three-time defending Premier League champion translate its domestic success to continental competition.
“I am full of self-confidence, the whole team can play better with me,” Jokanovic said at the club’s training complex in Kiryat Shalom on Tuesday.
“If I don’t have confidence in myself who will have it for me?” Maccabi was knocked out in the third qualifying round of the Champions League in each of the previous two seasons, and is hoping to reach the group stage for the second time in club history and the first since 2004/05.
“Maccabi must improve everything. It’s very clear,” Jokanovic added.
“There is a winning mentality here and we have a very fast team, but we will need more control and balance.
This will be the target for the club to make them more competitive, compact and more balanced.”
Jokanovic, who replaced Pako Ayestaran after the Spaniard led Maccabi to an unprecedented domestic treble, guided Watford to English Premier League promotion last season, but his contract was not renewed.
“My past is my past, it’s not that important now,” he said.
“Maccabi was very serious about putting me in this position and I am happy to be in this situation. I have come to a winning team and we have a very important summer coming up and season too. We will push very hard and reach our targets in Europe.”
Jokanovic said he has learned about his squad by watching many of Maccabi’s games from last season and he is well aware of the level of expectation at the club.
“The big dream for the supporters and for us is very clear but making the Champions League is not an easy job,” he said. “We will have to take steps and over the last three years Maccabi has had some very good campaigns and we will try to reach this target. This is our dream and our desire.”
Jokanovic’s first match at the helm will be at Maltese champion Hibernians in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round on July 14/15. The return leg will be played at Bloomfield Stadium a week later.
Sports director Jordi Cruyff said Jokanovic has a similar profile to the team’s past three coaches.
“We have had some very good results over the past years since I’ve been with the club and under a number of different coaches,” said Cruyff. “If you analyze the coaches from over the last few years at Maccabi, they are all of similar profiles and when I saw that things weren’t working out for Slavisa at Watford I knew that this was the man we had to try to get. This was also the quickest we have named a coach since I have been here.”
Cruyff said Maccabi’s main objective remains to win the domestic league. “Getting to the group stages is all about the draw and last year we had a very good draw, however this year we will not be seeded in the third round and it will make it harder to accomplish,” said Cruyff. “I must be adamant and clear that even if we don’t make the group stages of the Champions League the season will not be a failure.”