Saturday, September 11, 2010

Milovan Rajevac: inside story of how Ghana coach quit Black Stars.

This piece was first published online on Thursday, September 9, 2010 on the following page ( ).

As you can see it has been pulled down from that page because a party mentioned in this piece felt hard done by and issued legal threats against me and the owners of the page where it was first published.

However, this is my personal page. And I doubt if I will pull it down, or receive any legalese...

As far as I am concerned there is nothing malicious about this piece. It states facts as a journalist has dug up. Perhaps I'm being blinded by my own sense of judgement but if you feel strongly about the article's inappropriateness, please feel free to let me know in the comments section.

The following is a re-publication of the article.


Gary Al-Smith


Christopher Opoku sews together a colourful tapestry of the story of Ghana’s relationship with Milovan Rajevac, who has now left the team after guiding it to the last eight in South Africa.

So another era is gone with the exit of Ghana’s head coach, Milovan Rajevac. Contractual disagreements, procrastination plus a break down in trust were factors that ultimately led to his exit and now, for the first time in over two years, another battle royale for the position has already begun.

This piece will attempt to give a clear picture into the events that resulted in the Serbian coach’s decision to leave Ghana for a lucrative job with one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest clubs, Al-Ahli Jeddah.

As you will no doubt be aware, Milovan Rajevac was one of the coaches managed by football management agency, Virtus International, who brokered the deal to get him the Ghana job in August 2008. I use the word ‘was’ because what you are about to read will probably explain why he might no longer be on their books.

The football agency is managed by football agent Goran Milovanovic, who clearly saw the potential in Ghanaian talents and had indeed signed a number of them on the books of Virtus before the Rajevac deal was sealed.

As you may well know, a football agent’s role is to manage either players or managers/coaches, see to their welfare as per employment and obviously take a cut out of the client’s earnings and that is why these days, it is the agents who broker deals on behalf of their clients. Milo’s deal with the Ghana Football Association [GFA] clearly was a boost to Virtus because, through the national team, the Black Stars, some of the players signed up could get opportunities at national level and by so doing, increase their sell-on value.

Also Milo would have been given a brief: to study some national players and recommend them for recruitment by the agency. That is why, after the likes of Samuel Inkoom and Emmanuel Agyeman-Badu signed on for the agency, the widely held perception was that Virtus was influencing Milo’s squad selections, a perception strongly denied by the agency on the grounds that famed French football agent, Fabien Piveteau [profile is in French] had more players in the Black Stars squad than Virtus, including the likes of Michael Essien and John Mensah.

It was clear however that the marriage between Virtus International and Milo Rajevac was a happy one over the two year period. His achievements with the Black Stars over this period served to, at certain points, make the arguments about the football agency’s influence on the team irrelevant because, getting the Black Stars to two continental finals and a World Cup quarterfinal clearly showed that he was doing a good job.

His preference for younger players ultimately proved inspired and if there is one thing Milo did for Ghana, he shattered the aura of untouchability surrounding certain Ghana players and in so doing, brought a lot of competition for places in the team. Gradually, in spite of the fact that Daniel Agyei, Lee Addy, Stephen Ahorlu, Prince Tagoe, Yaw Antwi and recently John Boye and Jonathan Mensah are all on the books of Virtus International, results showed that it did not matter too much.

Also, Virtus International invested in the creation of one of Ghana’s most popular and creible football sites, which delighted fans and pundits from far and wide with up-to-the minute details about national players, some of which were players on the books of Virtus. The Chief Executive of and, another website for African football news, is Benedict Papa Yaw Sarpong, who is the Ghana representative for Virtus International.

Soon, as I have already mentioned, the website became hugely popular and was almost always ahead of the rest, giving exclusive news about Ghana football, with specific reference to the Black Stars. So after the World Cup in South Africa, when there was news about the possibility of Milo Rajevac signing a contract renewal with the GFA, became the place to go to for any news on the deal. Eventually, on 30th August, 2010, the website published a story headlined, ‘Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac finally signs new deal’.

To tell you the truth, I was delighted because I think Milo has been good for the team and his staying on, would only have benefitted the team. The story went on to reveal that in spite of some other offers, including one from Al –Ahli Jeddah, the Serbian coach had decided to stay with Ghana and had indeed signed the contract. My joy was eventually smashed when the Ghana Football Association came out to deny the story. So, the first question you might be asking yourself, is, what actually happened?

Well, after some investigations were conducted, the findings are as follows:

■ A 4-year contract was discussed, negotiated and agreed by the GFA, Milo and crucially Goran Milovanovic
■ A memorandum of understanding was either signed, or close to being signed by Milovan Rajevac.
■ The contract was sent to the Ministry of Youth and Sports for ratification, but because certain government elements objected to Milo staying on, the ratification dragged.
■ In that time frame, Al –Ahli Jeddah doubled their offer for Milovan Rajevac and when his contract expired on 17th August, he decided to examine his options
■ Apparently, Milo began to feel that Goran, and by extension, Virtus International were going to get a a huge financial slice of the new contract since they were his managers.
■ Milo apparently told top GFA Officials that he felt that ‘he was being fleeced’ by Virtus International in the deal

Add all the above-mentioned issues up, and as ex-international Mohammed Polo put it, Ghana was sitting on a time bomb, which eventually began to detonate when news broke that Milo had been to Saudi Arabia to sign a deal. What we know now was that communication lines were open between Milo and Al Ahli Jeddah before the Ghana game against Swaziland and indeed, some form of agreement was arrived at.

That explains why the Serbian coach was able to describe the rumours of his trip to Saudi Arabia as nonsense, but he clearly stunned the GFA officials later that night, after Ghana’s 3-0 win over Swaziland, by telling them that due to problems with Goran, he needed a week to take a decision. So to some extent, the news that the GFA had given him a week’s ultimatum to decide was not a clear representation of events, because that was when Milo told them that ‘he was being fleeced’.

Milo thus went behind the back of Virtus and left for Saudi Arabia to finish negotiations over the deal. A clearly frustrated and angry Goran began to speak to the Ghana media, blasting Milo for taking a decision that did not have his say-so, and also accusing him of betraying Ghanaians. But in business terms, because Virtus are not entitled to anything substantial from the Al–Ahli Jeddah deal, financially, Goran had lost out because apart from the healthy financial slice he would have enjoyed had Milo signed the Ghana deal, it was a major blow to the master plan of recruiting more Ghanaian players on the books of Virtus because the influence on the national team, if any, is now totally out of the window.

As I said earlier, I am unhappy at the turn of events and I believe the GFA are in a tight corner now. They now have to meet to decide whether Kwasi Appiah [assistant under Rajevac] will handle the team in a caretaker capacity and when I enquired, I was reliably informed that that decision had not been taken. For now, Milo has signed a deal worth a minimum of $110,000 a month with other perks and we have to say well done to him, but it is now time to move on.

The future

Already, an Arab football agent called Mohammed Habashy is talking to one of my colleagues in a bid to get one of his clients, Heron Ricardo Ferreira, to coach the Black Stars and indeed I have had the privilege of sighting Perreira’s CV. Unfortunately, despite being offered a cut in the deal to bring Ferreira to Ghana, my colleague is not interested because he supports the principle of a local coach.

Milo’s departure will no doubt sadden the players but this could mean a return to the national team for Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari, as well as Eric Bekoe [plays for Petrojet in Egypt] when he recovers fully from his injury.

One thing that I am wondering is that if you recall I was told by Virtus a few months back that when Bekoe broke his deal with them, he was liable to pay 1 million Euros for breach of contract, but they decided to let him off, so the question is whether the same courtesies will be extended to Milo, whose relationship with Goran at this stage looks irretrievably damaged.

Of course, others might speculate that perhaps Goran’s public show of frustration in the Ghana media could end up being a cover up for being fully aware of the Saudi deal but for now, I am dealing with the facts available.

Already, Ratomir Djukovic [who handled Ghana at Germany 2006] has thrown his hat into the ring to succeed Milo, but as to whether he is now prepared to deal with the media, which was one of the reasons he cited for not renewing his contract after the 2006 World Cup remains to be seen. Also others seem to think that this is the right time for former France captain, Marcel Desailly to take over the team.

Personally, I think we can do no worse than a coaching duo of David Duncan and Maxwell Konadu to take over the team and crucially given all the support given to Milo Rajevac, but my biggest fear is that it could turn out to be nothing but a pipe dream because of preconceived notions about local coaches.

About the author
Christopher Opoku – get him on Facebook – is the Head of Sports at Metro TV in Ghana. This piece was published in yesterday’s edition [September 10, 2010] of the 'Graphic Sports' newspaper - the country's biggest selling sports paper.