In the end, “Mago de Umago” (“the Magician from Umag”) finished with a victory. Lino Cervar steered Croatia to fifth position at the 2018 EHF EURO, as they beat Czech Republic 28:27. Though expectations were much higher, as the hosts hoped to take their first European championship title, the fans in Arena Zagreb showed their appreciation for the team and their legendary coach.
Lino Cervar, who led Croatia to their one and only World Championship title in 2003 and their second Olympic gold medal in 2004, was pleased, but his future is uncertain. “Give me 10 days to talk to my family and friends, then I will know if I continue,” 67-year-old Cervar (67) said in the post-match press conference after the EHF EURO placement match against Czech Republic. “I really do not know.”
His contract with the Croatian Handball Federation (HRS) expired with the last EHF EURO match, and his contract with Macedonian club Metalurg, the team he has coached since 2009, will also end after the current season. What are his future plans? “I need to analyse,” said Cervar.
His predecessor Zeljko Babic lost his job after he steered Croatia to the semi-finals of the World Championship 2017, but did not win a medal – and Cervar became the symbol of hope for the whole handball-crazy country. But even the Magician was not enough for the team to go all the way.
Several Croatian media outlets reported that his assistant Hrvoje Horvat might take over. Other options seem to be current PPD Zagreb coach, and former Zagreb and Veszprém player Zlatko Saracevic, or current Paris Saint-Germain coach Noka Serdarusic, whose contract with the French club was not extended beyond the current season.
Or will Cervar stay? “I always said that I came here to help and to give my best for Croatian handball. Now I need some time to decide,” said Cervar, adding, true to his famous style: “I thank all who supported me, as well as those who threatened me. At first, I want to relax with my family, and then I announce my future.”