EXCLUSIVE: The future of Zeljko Buvac, job interviews and replacing Arsene Wenger

Forget the jolly japes, the smile, the endorsements and manic Germanic attitude. Put aside the madcap goal-filled football on display at Anfield, when teams offer to go one-to-one. Jurgen Klopp is a killer. He’s a man who won’t let anything stand in his way and this does not always sit well with those around you.

Sir Alex Ferguson used to like to big up his assistants, then relish their inevitable collapse when they stepped out from under his wings. Being the shoulder, the brains, the base is fine, but being all things to all men, women and shareholders, this is a different animal. While Steve McLaren’s relative successes on his own two feet will be considered not bad in the future. There is always the chance of a Brian Kidd waiting to happen.

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Klopp and Buvac

When Klopp was signing up at Anfield I penned a piece that came back into a bit of vogue with his assistant’s leave of absence. As soon as I saw him stepping aside, I contacted mutual friends in Germany and the Republika Srpska. I got two varying stories.

“He was forced out after he showed an interest in the Hamburg job, that’s the story I was told. I didn’t push it out as it didn’t make sense. Until I heard he’d gotten a guarantee of a 30 million transfer war-chest to bring them back up.”
Current sports reporter in Hesse who played with Zeljko Buvac at Neukirchen.

“Honestly, he just wanted out and is gone on gardening leave.”
– Childhood friend and confidante from Prijedor who is now working with one of Sarajevo’s big retailers.

From a range of sources there was the usual hearsay – they fell out; he’s got a drink problem; they did him for bungs; he was caught gambling on games (non-Liverpool); he owes money and was removed from the club; he’s been offered this or that job and interviewed for it and Liverpool suspended him.

Then, yesterday, the newsdesks exploded. He was wanted by Sven Mislintat – Arsenal’s Head of Recruitment – to be manager there. But this was put more succinctly by the Times as Zeljko becoming part of the club’s new coaching structure.

Ex-Liverpool player Danny Murphy decried his lack of experience, meanwhile Rio Ferdinand predicts it really is only for personal problems. Of course, media needed to figure out if the man could be a contender for the post that Arsene Wenger is soon leaving.

Klopp loses his right hand man for the crucial part of the season, including the Champions League Final, but nobody knows for how long. And everybody needs to know now.

Nobody wants to accept that Buvac moving to Arsenal might not be the worst thing for a club which has fallen far below a standard set before economic doping took full control. Buvac did a more than adequate job with limited resources at Neukirchen, albeit down the German pro ranks, but it counts.

What happened at Mainz 05 matters far more than what has followed at either Borussia Dortmund or Liverpool. It was his groundwork, scouting and negotiating that lifted the club to its new heights. Klopp was the face, Buvac, as we’ve been reminded of this week, the brain.

Anyone who knows German football will know Mainz were considered ‘harmless’, but under these two men and their colleagues, it became an unwelcome visitor or away destination. Zeljko has earned a shot at a good club, especially a mid-ranking, former power like Arsenal. The only fear would be he’ll be more Gross than Wenger and hounded out without giving it a full makeover, as Klopp has been afforded the time at Liverpool.

Open Truth

According to sources, Zeljko Buvac was given permission by Liverpool FC to interview for at least two jobs, though he only interviewed for one.

The Hamburg post was a smokescreen. He would never walk into a dysfunctional club where there is so much potential but so little love. While Hamburg will most likely rebound next year, there is also a chance that they will be stuck for two or three years in the 2.Bundesliga.

The relationship between Klopp and Buvac has had its ups and downs over a 17-year term, but they remain close. While an ‘insider’ tried to claim irreconcilable differences, this is not the case. There is an annoyance over one point, though it has not forced the hand of Liverpool’s paymasters. Instead, it’s to do with ambition.

The other job he was considered for and interviewed for, is the upcoming vacancy with Eintracht Frankfurt. Current boss Niko Kovac will move to Bayern Munich in the summer and Zeljko is in the running to move to the club and is gone on gardening leave in the meantime until the picture is clearer. Fredi Bobic is a fan, so too is club president Peter Fischer. Buvac is highly respected in German football circles – just as much as Klopp – and the opportunity to take over at Eintracht suits all parties.

While the deal is far from done, there appears to be no way back to Liverpool for the Bosian-Serb. His friend Jurgen would not reject him if the opportunity arose for Buvac to return, however there are elements at the club who would not shed tears at his departure. As far as the club and Buvac is concerned, his ambition is to be a manager at different club next season.

This story has not yet run its course and it might just follow the River Main.

The Author

Alan Moore

Russian-based sports journalist, commentator, radio host & consultant. Worked with major clubs including Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt, Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow. Current host of Capital Sports 3.0, former international boxer and semi-professional footballer and FIFA World Cup commentator.

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