Mehmet’s on a Selangor prayer after silencing his critics

FourFourTwo speaks to Selangor coach Mehmet Durakovic about his Malaysia Cup dream, over-achieving and the constant speculation over his future. The Australian tells Vijhay Vick he could do more next year with a bigger budget, if the powers that be retain his services…

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It sounds absurd to think a club – one that has been chasing an elusive 33rd Malaysia Cup for a decade and could actually win it this year – could then part ways with the coach that took them there.

Yet Durakovic could find something in common with Vicente del Bosque (Real Madrid), Fabio Capello (Real Madrid, twice) and Roberto de Matteo (Chelsea) – all managers that found themselves out of a job despite winning trophies at their respective clubs.

Durakovic has one year left on his contract, but FourFourTwo understands Selangor have already lined up Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan as his replacement for next season.

I want to bring back the glory days to Selangor

The Australian happily talked about how proud he was of taking Selangor to the Malaysia Cup final for the first time since their 3-2 defeat to Kedah in 2008 – the very same opponents that stand in their way come Saturday – but his tone quickly changed when the topic turned to his future.

While he insisted it was a decision for the Selangor management to make, it was clear Durakovic wants to continue his efforts in bringing back the glory days to Selangor, the days when Durakovic played in front of a packed Shah Alam Stadium week in, week out.

“Honestly, I don’t want to talk about it. We have reached the final and finished second twice in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) when no one expected it. I am happy here and I have done my best with the resources available,” he said.

“I’m not in control of the things behind the scenes, nor am I a politician here. Let the people in charge decide. Personally, I have no doubt we could do better with a bigger budget next year. I’m not talking about an astronomical figure … just a budget to keep our good players instead of losing them to Johor Darul Ta’zim every year.

“I want to bring back the glory days to Selangor and the young players I have such as Nazmi Faiz Mansor, Azrif Nasrulhaq and Ahmad Hazwan Bakri must be retained. When I was here as a player, no one wanted to leave Selangor.”

Andik Vermansyah's bursting runs have been a joy to watch. Photo: Football Malaysia LLP

Under Durakovic, Selangor had the best defence in the 2014 MSL season, conceding only 19 times in 22 matches, and boasted the best attack this year with 43 league goals.

Having won three Malaysia Cups from 1995-97, Mehmet is aiming to be the first foreigner to lift the trophy as both player and coach.

When he was announced as the Red Giants' coach for three seasons starting in December 2013, Durakovic expressed his sadness that Selangor no longer attracted large turnouts and hoped he was the man to bring the fans back.

So he found it difficult to express the joy he felt after seeing nearly 60,000 fans attend Selangor’s semi-final return leg against Pahang at Shah Alam Stadium last Sunday. Selangor won the match 2-0 to progress to the final.

“It’s a great feeling walking out to a full crowd. It feels good for the coaches, players and our families. It brought back memories to the time I was playing here,” he said.

“There is also a sense of satisfaction in all of us because no one gave us a chance of even progressing out of the group. But here we are today and I really cannot ask anything more from my players.

"Reaching the final by sheer hard work is pleasing. I expect another tough match and my players are up to it.”