Sinisa Mihajlovic has died of leukemia at the age of 53, the family of the Serie A icon said in a statement on Friday.
His wife Arianna and their five children deplored the “unjust and premature death” of Mihajlovic who played for numerous clubs in Italy and competed in the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championships.
He later became a coach, largely in Serie A and most recently with Bologna.
Former full-back Mihajlovic was diagnosed with leukemia just before the 2019-20 season and was in and out of hospital since undergoing treatment.
He had a distinguished playing career in Serie A, winning the title with both Lazio and Inter Milan, and was a prominent player when the league was considered the world’s strongest.
Mihajlovic spent most of his life in Italy after moving to Roma in 1992 from Red Star Belgrade, where he had won the European Cup, but he is best known for his time at Lazio.
He won the Serie A title, two Italian Cups and the Cup Winners Cup in his six-year spell with Roma’s fierce cross-town rivals, and remains a hero figure among Lazio supporters.
Mihajlovic was also considered one of the best set-piece takers of all time. He jointly holds with Andrea Pirlo the record for free-kick goals scored in Serie A, netting 28 times from dead ball situations.
However the former Yugoslav international, who scored 10 goals in his 63 appearances, was a controversial figure due to ties to the notorious Serbian nationalist paramilitary warlord Arkan.
After becoming coach of Serbia in 2012 he ordered players to sing the national anthem before matches, kicking attacking midfielder Adem Ljajic off the team when he refused to do so for “personal reasons”.
In 2000 Mihajlovic admitted racially abusing Patrick Vieira during a Champions League match between Arsenal and Lazio.
The relationship between the pair reportedly softened when Vieira moved to Inter in 2006, shortly after Mihajlovic had become an assistant coach there.
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