Jelavic: I want to manage in the Premier League


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Eleven years on from firing Everton into the semi-finals of the FA Cup, Nikica Jelavic has ambitions of a return to British football.

“I want to be a manager in the Premier League so this is the target for the future,” former Rangers and West Ham striker Jelavic told Sky Sports News in an exclusive interview.

“I always try to set targets. Even when I was a player I was setting targets, goal targets, some numbers. Now, especially as a coach I want to set big targets – but step by step, of course.”

Despite a swollen knee – the after-effects of turning out for the Rangers legends at the weekend – Jelavic was looking forward to seeing Croatia’s U21s take on their England counterparts when I met up with him at his Chiswick hotel.

Jelavic poses with Barry Ferguson
Jelavic and Barry Ferguson played for a Rangers Legends XI over the international break

Having taken his first steps in management with his current role as Lokomotiv Zagreb’s U19s head coach, his hunger for football is as strong as ever, but that wasn’t always the case.

When he retired from playing two years ago, Jelavic kept away from the game completely, spending a “great” 12 months with his wife and children before the urge came to give something back to football after a career in which he was capped 36 times by Croatia.

“Now I feel like I’m alive again,” he added. “I’m directly involved in football. I’m deciding many things as an U19s head coach. I am now actually looking at football in a different way than when I was a player. After the break I was missing it.”

Having already obtained his UEFA A and B licences while awaiting enrolment on the Pro Licence, his role is developmental rather than results-driven.

Nikica Jelavic 3061307

Lokomotiv Zagreb’s first-team squad currently features 17 players who have come through their academy. The measure of success for Jelavic? Produce young, hungry players who will ultimately be sold to make way for the next generation coming through.

What we are trying to do in my club, we don’t give big money to young players,” he said. “They have to earn it. When they make their move they can earn money. But in our club we are trying to keep them focused on developing. Nothing else.

“We produce and we sell. We know what we have to do to survive.”

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It’s a different model to how his former club, Everton, have operated in recent times and they are now facing a Premier League charge of breaching Profit and Sustainability rules for the year 2021/22 having suffered financial losses of more than £100m in each of the three years prior to that.

“Everton spent a lot of money and they didn’t do well,” said Jelavic, the Premier League’s highest scoring Croatian. “Who made mistakes? I don’t know. But, when I was there they were choosing players and how to spend money much, much more carefully.”

The fans protests have made it clear that they hold the board and owner responsible for the issues facing Everton. However, the appointment of Sean Dyche has produced a return of 11 points from eight games which has given them a fighting chance of escaping relegation.

Jelavic visited his old club's training ground over the international break
Jelavic visited his old club’s training ground over the international break

While Dyche wasn’t around when Jelavic paid a visit to Finch Farm last week he’s seen enough to notice the similarities between Everton’s current boss and the manager who brought him to Goodison from Rangers.

“This is something that Everton needs,” added Jelavic. “Because Everton with David Moyes, his era Everton was always a tough place to come and play.

“The big teams, they hated playing at Goodison. So this now becomes something similar. Everton needs someone who is actually a tough manager.”

West Ham United's Nikica Jelavic applauds the fans
West Ham United’s Nikica Jelavic applauds the fans

As much as Jelavic hopes Dyche can deliver Premier League safety, he wants the same for Moyes.

The West Ham manager was happy to meet for a chat as Jelavic continues to hoover up morsels of information that will help his development as a coach. The manager who gave him his chance in English football remains as influential in his career as the late Walter Smith.

Jelavic spent time with David Moyes at West Ham over the international break
Jelavic spent time with David Moyes at West Ham over the international break

“Those two guys are the top,” said Jelavic. “Walter was like a really proper gentleman and he brought me to Rangers. He helped me a lot with advice with everything. David Moyes, the same, and I was happy to be part of their clubs.”

So what about the possibility of following them into the Goodison or Ibrox hot seat?

“Listen, you never know in the future but, definitely, that would be great, especially Rangers and Everton,” he said. “With both of these two clubs I really have special memories.”

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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