Halilhodzic: I am inferior to nobody
Vahid Halilhodzic has declared he is "able to win the Champions League" and is "inferior to nobody" in the dug-out as he prepares to lead Algeria into the African Nations Cup.
Halilhodzic, 60, built his reputation in France with Lille and Paris Saint-Germain, and since leaving the Parc des Princes in 2005, has enjoyed success at Dinamo Zagreb and guided Ivory Coast to the 2010 World Cup finals and the Nations Cup of the same year.
He has achieved the same feat with Algeria for the upcoming tournament in South Africa, but while he continues to embellish his international credentials, he feels he still has not been given the opportunity to show his skills fully at club level.
"I'm lacking a club that's capable of winning the Champions League. I'm able to win the Champions League, and that's not being pretentious. When I hear that music, it does something to me," he told L'Equipe. "I'm inferior to nobody. The other day, when I was watching Barcelona, they had put one player up front. It was an enormous mistake, which I would never make. I know who can play in attack, in midfield and in defence."
After guiding then-modest Lille into the Champions League at the turn of the millennium, Halilhodzic's star was so much in the ascendancy he was strongly tipped to take over at Lyon when Jacques Santini quit in 2002. He was overlooked in favour of Paul Le Guen, however, as OL went on to dominate French football. He believes his reputation as a stubborn disciplinarian meant he missed out on the opportunity to lead a side which he could have taken to the summit of European football.
"It was the right moment to take Lyon, the only team that could win the Champions League. [OL president] Aulas told me 'yes' at midnight. The following day, he called again: 'Vahid, I've heard certain things'. I replied: 'Heard what? Okay, thanks Mr President'. I put the phone down. He called again later, but I never replied. I had understood," the Bosnian-born coach explained. "I have the image of someone arrogant, who has character, authority. When you have a lot of authority, it's a problem."
Established figures within the Algerian national side are now feeling the brunt of the no-nonsense approach to the game which has brought Halilhodzic this far. Karim Ziani, a national hero in Algeria, has been left out of the squad for the Nations Cup with Halilhodzic, appointed to the job in June 2011, preferring to rely on young talents Ryad Boudebouz and Sofiane Feghouli to provide creativity. Suspended for the opening group stage game against fellow heavyweights Tunisia, Rafik Djebbour, the prolific Olympiakos forward, is another victim of Halilhodzic's desire to rejuvenate the north African side.
"[After an initial meeting with the players in France] I said to myself that this squad could listen to me, and that we could do something. So, I changed things round, I wanted to give the team a new spirit, a breath of fresh air," said Halilhodzic, who has been deprived of the inspirational Madjid Bougherra through injury. "For the moment, I'm happy with the work we've done in qualifying for the Nations Cup, which is the first step."