Sinisa Mihajlovic, Serie A and Serbian football favourite, dies aged 53

Sinisa Mihajlovic, a former star player in his native Serbia and then Italy, who became a popular coach in Serie A, has died three years after being diagnosed with leukaemia. He was 53.

Mihajlovic’s family announced on Friday that he died in a Rome hospital. The Serb had most recently coached Bologna for three and a half years, becoming a sentimental favourite of fans and players alike for his desire to remain on the job, even after his diagnosis in 2019, before he was sacked in September. Players sometimes gathered under Mihajlovic’s hospital window when the coach was receiving treatment.

A full-back and free-kick specialist, Mihajlovic was a member of the Red Star Belgrade team that won the European Cup in 1991. He also won Serie A as a player with Lazio in 2000 and was part of the Internazionale team that was awarded the 2006 Serie A title after Juventus were stripped of the honour as a result of the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal.

“Serie A is deeply pained by the death of Sinisa Mihajlovic,” the Italian league tweeted. “His pure class as a footballer and coach, his strength and his humanity are an example that leaves an indelible void in Italian and world soccer.” As tributes began to flood in from inside and outside the football world, the Italian foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, added on social media: “A great man, a great fighter, we will remember him as one of the best Serbian players ever to play in Italy.”

Mihajlovic also coached Catania, Fiorentina, Serbia’s national team, Sampdoria, Milan and Torino.