Torino Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic admits “a part of me is dead” as he can no longer take free-kicks.
The Serbian was famous for his set piece prowess, and admits he misses striking the ball now that he has hung up his boots.
“I’ve taken free-kicks since I was a kid, and my dad gave me my first football,” Mihajlovic told L’Équipe.
“I had this iron gate on a wall in my family home, I’d get up at 7am and I’d kick it off there all day, when I hit the gate you’d hear the noise and I’d say I’d scored.
“When I hit the wall I’d shoot again and again… all day. After two or three months my dad had to change the iron gate because it was all broken, and the neighbours were furious because they couldn’t get any sleep!
“I played football for the free-kicks.
“I didn't like football all that much, but the free-kicks were great. It was like brushing your teeth, I went to training less for the session itself, more to hit free-kicks afterward.
“For me, a free-kick is football. If there hadn't have been that, I might not have played.
“Now I’m no longer able to play football, no longer able to take free-kicks and score them, a part of me is dead. What I would give to be in the place of my players taking a free-kick…
“I used every kind of strike. To shoot over the wall, I’d strike the underside of the ball and caress it. When I went around the wall I’d shoot with the inside of my foot, the ball would swerve and it moved quickly.
“When the ball went into the goal it was beautiful, like an orgasm.
“Physicists from Belgrade University came to see me in training, they couldn’t understand how the ball could go so high before dropping unexpectedly, all the while going left, right…
“The only thing they managed to measure was the speed of my strike, the fastest was measured at 165km/h. As for the rest, they couldn’t understand anything!”
Mihajlovic once scored a hat-trick of free-kicks in a Serie A match, and he recounted that experience.
“It was a match against Sampdoria, we won 5-2 or 5-3 [it was 5-2]. Three free-kicks for me, three goals.
“The goalkeeper against me was [Fabrizio] Ferron, we played together at Sampdoria.
“Before the match I said to him: ‘Ferro, don’t be clever and try to anticipate my free-kicks’, as though I was going to shoot over the wall. ‘Don’t move before my free-kick, because you know I’ll see you’.
“He told me: ‘Don’t worry, I won’t move…’
“But if it was a free-kick it was normal that I would score. I concentrated on putting the ball over the wall, because I knew that he wouldn’t move. I got three out of three!
“I was trying to just catch the woodwork, but if there were five free-kicks I’d have scored five goals, I played a little psychological game with him.
“I was capable of taking them in different styles, I always had the same run-up. I’d only look at the goalkeeper on my last step.
“If he didn’t move I’d put the ball over the wall, if he took a small step I’d put it around it.
“My last step would be slower or faster, if I was going to put it over the wall I’d slow down, if I was going around I’d speed up. It wasn’t complicated for me.”
The Granata boss also hit a famous strike for Red Star in a European Cup semi-final against Bayern Munich.
“When I approached the ball I concentrated,” Mihajlovic recalled.
“I isolated myself from everything: the stadium, the stands, my teammates, the importance of the match, the result as it stood…
“When I scored it was a hysteria, we couldn’t understand anything. I knew what that goal meant for all of Yugoslavia in those difficult times. That free-kick was the most beautiful thing, the most important thing I did.”
Mihajlovic shares the Serie A free-kick record with Andrea Pirlo, with both men on 28…
“The only free-kick I never tried was Pirlo’s ‘maledetta’. I genuinely couldn’t comprehend that free-kick, where is the ball?
“It goes up high then drops, it’s a very particular strike which I never attempted, because I’d finished my career when that appeared.
“I’d like to learn it, and have how to do it explained to me.”