Red Star Belgrade’s Champions League return is no surprise to club great Dejan Savicevic, who hopes the Serbian giants can establish themselves in Europe’s premier competition.
After 26 years of waiting, Red Star fans packed into the iconic Rajko Mitic Stadium to watch the 1991 European Cup champions frustrate Serie A entertainers Napoli to a goalless draw in their Group C opener.
Not since 1992 – a year after stunning Marseille in the European final in Bari – had Red Star featured in the Champions League but the sleeping giants have awoken in Belgrade.
Savicevic, who faced Marseille at Stadio San Nicola as the capital club etched their names in history 27 years ago before going on to secure his place in AC Milan’s Hall of Fame, was a member of the last Red Star team to feature in Europe prior to the achievements of Vladan Milojevic’s 2018-19 side.
Crvena zvezda je nepobediva 31 meč u nizu
— FK Crvena zvezda (@crvenazvezdafk) September 19, 2018
Now serving as president of the Football Association of Montenegro (FSCG), Savicevic – who finished second in the 1991 Ballon d’Or – told Omnisport: “It’s a really nice feeling to see Red Star in the Champions League.
“As a club with great tradition Red Star deserves to participate in UEFA competitions. The club haven’t participated in the Champions League for a long period of time and it is a great success of this generation.”
— FK Crvena zvezda (@crvenazvezdafk) September 20, 2018
The 52-year-old added: “To be honest, I expected them to reach the group stage of the Champions League even earlier as UEFA has provided bigger chances for clubs from eastern Europe to qualify.
“Red Star are a big club, with many supporters, nice stadium and with all other things needed for taking part in competitions at the highest level. It was just a question of time when they will make a good team with a good coach… This year they have those things and I’m not surprised with their success.”
“It can be the beginning of constant appearances of Red Star in the Champions League,” Savicevic continued. “As a big club, Red Star need to provide that to their fans, to constantly participate in the Champions League group stage.
“In a couple of years, if they manage to be a constant in the Champions League, I think they can think about winning more points in the group stage or even to get to Europa League after the Champions League group stage. But, I repeat, they need to be regular participants in the Champions League group stage for a couple of years.”
Arhivirali smo 9. superligašku pobedu
— FK Crvena zvezda (@crvenazvezdafk) September 29, 2018
After earning a point against Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli, it does not get any easier for Red Star, who will make the trip to French champions Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday before a clash against last season’s runners-up Liverpool at Anfield on October 24.
“All groups are tough,” said Savicevic, who attended Red Star’s opener against Napoli, alongside other club greats. “There are a couple of groups which could be a little bit easier for Red Star but I’m glad because they will face some of the best teams in Europe.
“Having opponents like Napoli, Liverpool and PSG is very important for the club, players and for the coach. These matches will help Milojevic to see where and how he can improve his team for the next season. I think Red Star left a good impression in the first match and it will be important for them not to spoil that in the next matches.”
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