In the world of football, Red Star Belgrade is more than just a club; it’s an empire in the hearts of its devoted fans. As they prepare to face Manchester City, the facts are clear – both clubs have tasted glory in the Champions League, formerly known as the European Cup, on one occasion each. Pep Guardiola’s squad claimed the title last season, while Red Star proudly hoisted the trophy in 1991. But to Red Star’s loyal supporters, those facts are secondary to their unwavering belief in the club’s heritage.
“To them, Red Star belongs among the greats,” affirms Mozzart Sport journalist Dejan Stankovic. “In their eyes, it even surpasses Paris St-Germain, who’ve never clinched the Champions League. And comparing them to RB Leipzig? That’s just not in the same league.”
Many fans attribute Red Star’s interrupted international success to the civil war in Yugoslavia, believing that, if not for that turmoil, the Red-and-Whites from Belgrade would be as powerful as Benfica and Ajax. This unwavering optimism sets the stage for perpetually high expectations.
“Serbia doesn’t settle for anything less than total success,” explains Serbian football writer Vladimir Novakovic. “Even though the national team hasn’t progressed past the group stage since 1998, they’re always considered favorites. At the club level, Serbia hadn’t seen a single Champions League victory before Red Star’s historic win against Liverpool in 2018, but they’re expected to do it again.”
This drive for excellence extends beyond sports. It’s a sense of self-importance and grandeur that baffles outsiders. Last season exemplified this well: a loss to Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League qualifying play-offs was seen as a disaster, prompting coach Dejan Stankovic’s immediate resignation. His successor, Milos Milojevic, led Red Star to a championship title with near perfection, but their Europa League campaign fell short.
“People anticipated 12 to 14 points from six matches against Monaco, Trabzonspor, and Ferencvaros,” remarks Novakovic.
This season, optimism among fans is higher than ever. For the first time, Red Star secured automatic qualification to the Champions League group stage, enabling comprehensive summer planning both financially and professionally. High-profile signings, including Korean midfielder Hwang In-beom and Senegalese striker Cherif Ndiaye, signal a new era of investment.
But the most significant change comes from the coaching bench. Barak Bakhar, who once defeated Red Star in the Champions League, was appointed in May to usher in a new era for the club. Bakhar’s coaching successes in Israel, including leading Hapoel Beer Sheva and Maccabi Haifa to championship titles, demonstrate his tactical prowess and leadership qualities.
“Bakhar can transform teams and instill a winning mentality,” notes Walla Sport editor-in-chief David Rosenthal. “The challenge now is defining improvement because winning the domestic title is expected. He must succeed in Europe to prove his worth.”
Bakhar was given the authority to make tough decisions, resulting in the departure of key players. Serbian fans’ favorite, Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan, was transferred to Slovan Bratislava, while Israeli goalkeeper Omri Glazer, Bakhar’s choice, quickly earned praise in pre-season friendlies.
Red Star’s ability to attack in Europe, rather than playing defensively, marks a significant shift in strategy, and fans eagerly anticipate this change. However, keeping expectations in check may be challenging.
“As much as fans dream of success, they won’t tolerate a 5-0 thrashing by Manchester City,” warns Stankovic. “Even against perceived ‘smaller’ clubs like Leipzig, there’s immense pressure to perform. Red Star shines bright now, but the fall from grace can be swift.”
In the realm of Serbian football, where expectations are sky-high, Red Star’s journey back to the European summit is a quest that demands excellence and unwavering belief in the face of daunting challenges.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Red Star Belgrade’s Champions League Aspirations
What is the significance of Red Star Belgrade in European football?
Red Star Belgrade holds a special place in European football history as the 1991 European champions. They are revered by their fans and considered among the great clubs.
Why do Red Star fans have such high expectations?
Serbian football culture has a tradition of aiming for excellence, which extends to both the national team and clubs like Red Star. Success is the norm, and fans expect nothing less.
Who is Barak Bakhar, and why is he important for Red Star?
Barak Bakhar is the coach chosen to lead Red Star into a new era. His impressive coaching record, including multiple championships in Israel, suggests he can bring a winning mentality to the club.
How has Red Star prepared for their Champions League campaign?
Red Star secured automatic qualification, allowing them to plan meticulously. They made significant signings, invested financially, and changed their coaching staff to bolster their chances.
What challenges does Red Star face in the Champions League?
The competition in the Champions League is fierce. Red Star’s fans have high expectations, and they must perform well against top European teams to meet those demands.
How do Serbian fans view Red Star’s international success?
Many fans believe that Red Star’s international success was hindered by the civil war in Yugoslavia. They see the club as having the potential to rival European giants like Benfica and Ajax if not for those disruptions.