Champions in 1991, it has been a long time since Red Star Belgrade conquered Europe and club great Dejan Savicevic has little hope the Serbian giants can challenge again in continental football any time soon.
Attacking midfielder Savicevic was at the heart of Red Star’s most famous day in Italy 25 years ago, when the underdogs from the Serbian capital upstaged highly-fancied Marseille after a penalty shoot-out in the European Cup final.
Savicevic and the likes of Sinisa Mihajlovic, Robert Prosinecki and Darko Pancev all featured on that historic night at Stadio San Nicola in Bari.
Reigning Serbian champions Red Star continue to dominate domestically, going head-to-head with city rivals Partizan Belgrade for SuperLiga supremacy on a yearly basis, and have maintained their reputation as a production line for some of Europe’s finest players, including former Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic.
Marko Grujic is the latest player to come through the Red Star ranks, the midfielder joining Liverpool in January.
But Red Star have struggled to fight their way back to a place among the European elite.
Due to a range of factors, including the tumultuous breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and lack of finances, Red Star have failed to qualify for the Champions League since 1992 – a year in which the Belgrade side competed in the group stage, won the Intercontinental Cup and finished runners-up in the UEFA Super Cup.
Red Star lost in the third round of Champions League qualifying this season and speaking exclusively to Omnisport, Savicevic – now president of the Montenegro Football Association – said: “It is hard for the teams from this part of Europe to compete with the big clubs, especially on a financial level.
“Red Star is big club, with respected history and I hope that they will be back on tracks of success in European competitions.
“Unfortunately, due to financial differences with the big clubs, I think they won’t be able to reach heights that we have reached.
“I think that they can reach group stage of the Champions League or Europa League, but it will be tough to compete with big clubs equally again.”
Savicevic went on to win three Scudettos and a Champions League title with AC Milan, but it was at Red Star where he announced himself.
He missed virtually an entire season due to military service having only joined Red Star a few days earlier in 1988, but returned to help the club claim three successive national titles, as well as the European Cup and Intercontinental Cup.
His exploits with Red Star saw him named runner-up to Marseille’s Jean-Pierre Papin for the 1991 Ballon d’Or.
“Back then we had great team made of excellent players, the stadium was always crowded, we were backed by an army of supporters,” Savicevic reflected.
“We won everything we could during my time in Belgrade –Yugoslavian Championship and Cup, European Champions Cup and Club World Cup title.
“I grew up as a player in Red Star and made myself famous in the world of football and I always look back with a smile on that period of my career.”
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