Serbian Risto Vidakovic named new Lion City Sailors head coach

The 53-year-old holds a UEFA Pro coaching licence and last coached Malaysia’s Melaka United.

Nigel Chin

Published: 20 December 2022, 12:05 PM

The Lion City Sailors have turned to Serbian Risto Vidakovic as the man to lead the club back to glory. 

The 2021 Singapore Premier League champions announced the appointment of the 53-year-old, who holds a UEFA Pro Coaching licence, on Tuesday (Dec 20). He steps into the role that was vacated by South Korean Kim Do-hoon in August and filled on an interim basis by academy technical director Luka Lalic till the season ended. 

The Sailors had an underwhelming season in 2022. They lost out on the league title to Albirex Niigata by two points, and were knocked out of the Singapore Cup in the group stages despite having the biggest budget among all local clubs. 

In hiring Risto, the Sailors have a head coach who has led teams to titles.

Between 2017 and 2019, he led Ceres-Negros to three straight Philippines Football League titles. Ceres-Negros were also crowned the 2017 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup ASEAN Zone champions under his stewardship. 

More recently, Risto guided Maldivian club Maziya to the league title in the 2020-2021 campaign unbeaten. 

He last coached Melaka United in the Malaysian Super League, leaving on a mutual consent in April. 

Sailors chairman Forrest Li declared his confidence in Risto, calling him the “right man to take the club forward”. 

“Risto is a serial winner in the region, and has proven that he can work European knowhow into the football culture in Southeast Asia – and in this varying challenging circumstances as well,” he said. 

“His philosophy of football matches what we envision for ourselves, and perhaps more importantly, he is a dedicated football thinker and a father figure to players, especially the young ones, and I’m excited to have him at the helm of our team.” 

In a press release sent out by the club, Risto said he took on the Sailors role after being impressed by the club’s professionalism and its facilities. 

Dubbing it as an “huge and exciting challenge” Risto is aiming to “make something special at the club”.

With talents such as Diego Lopes, Maxime Lestienne and Hariss Harun, Risto will have a team of outstanding talents. He said it presents an exciting opportunity. 

“I like to play offensive football and it’s obvious in all the clubs I’ve worked in before that we’ve played that way. It’s important that the fans enjoy what they’re seeing from the team.

“While I have my philosophy, it’s also key that my players feel comfortable and happy with their positions on the pitch and their roles within the team so I have to adapt as well,” he said. 

“I’m happy we have some top foreign players here who have played in top-level leagues in Europe and they will be important to help guide these young players to reach another level in their game…. Collectively with these ingredients, we can build something important for the future and create a good atmosphere in the dressing room for the players every day.

“I just can’t wait to get started.”

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