'Super Slav' dreams of Premier League return
Croatia coach Slaven Bilic eyes a return to club management after Euro 2012
After six successful years of national service, Croatia head coach Slaven Bilic is busy making final preparations ahead of Euro 2012 - a tournament that could be his closing curtain - as the 43-year-old prepares to call time on his country upon the completion of his contract, which expires at the end of this summer's finals in Poland and Ukraine.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph this week, the former West Ham and Everton defender revealed his burning ambition to return to the Premier League as a manager. It's a desire that is sure to capture the attention of a number of England's leading chairmen, whose heads will be turned by the opportunity to bring in a man with such an impressive international record.
"One day I would love – love, not like – to manage a club," said Bilic in his typically passionate, straight-from-the-heart fashion. "And the Premier League is the league in the world that any manager would jump at the opportunity to work in.
"I watch the Premier League all the time, not only because my players are playing here but it's the most attractive league in Europe.
"It's my dream to have a successful Euros and maybe, maybe leave after that. I would love to have a great championship and then I am open to working elsewhere if that is what is the best for everyone.
He added: "The situation is that my contract expires at the end of the championships. It would be a good time to go if that was right. If the Croatian FA wants me to stay then of course I will talk to them but I am open to talking to clubs as well."
Bilic has had no shortage of options to return to club management from various teams around Europe, including some in England. But the loyal servant - who describes his current role not so much as a job, but as a "duty" and a "love", has resisted temptations that have also incorporated offers from other national teams, while his managerial stock continues to rise with Croatia.
"To be fair, I have had a lot of options during the past five years but I have never wanted to leave," he continued. "I showed respect to the clubs and talked to them.
"I didn't negotiate but I talked to them — and I talked to some national teams but I decided to stay with Croatia, with my country, and do the job that I love.
"I don't regret a thing and I would do the same again. But I'm very interested to work in a club. I see myself more as a club manager than as an international coach.
"I want to work day-to-day with the players. There are big differences between being a club manager and an international manager. With a club you have more options, more time and you have the team more.
"I know that because I was a club manager, okay it was in Croatia but it was a big club, my club, Hajduk Split, so I know what it's like. And I would like to do it again."
As Bilic makes his Premier League preference clear, the inevitable debate that will surely follow, is which club(s) will have a vacancy this summer, but perhaps more importantly, possess the drive and determination to lure the Croatian back to English shores.
Chelsea is an option, as would Tottenham be should Harry Redknapp make his long-anticipated switch into international management with England. David Moyes is one of the frontrunners to take over at White Hart Lane, which could pave way for Bilic's Goodison Park return.
Meanwhile, West Ham - whose fans are still coming to terms with Sam Allardyce's brand of football at Upton Park - are unlikely to oppose the appointment of a former Hammers favourite, should they seal promotion back to the English top-flight next season.
But, despite the inescapable rumours that will ensue, Bilic insists his commitment remains firmly with Croatia, as he looks to guide his country through their 'group of death' which includes Spain, Italy and the Republic of Ireland.
"If I had options, I would definitely like to think about working in a club," he reiterated. "Although this job, for me, was the best ever because I am the national coach of my country.
"It's my wish but, of course, I am totally concentrated on the Euros and that's the only thing I am thinking about at the moment."
Reflecting on the pedigree of the countries involved, Bilic added: "It's the cruelest tournament you can imagine. But I know we will prepare well and let's just say I would be very disappointed if we didn't get through the group stage.
"What happens after the Euros, we're going to have to see."