Slaven Bilić ([slâʋen bǐːlit͡ɕ]; born 11 September 1968) is a retired Croatian professional footballer and current manager of English club West Ham United.
Bilić began his career in 1988 with his hometown club Hajduk Split, later having successful spells with Karlsruher SC in Germany and West Ham United and Everton in England before retiring from active football in 2001. At the international level, Bilić served as one of Croatia's most consistent defenders during the tenure of coach Miroslav Blažević, earning 44 caps between 1992 and 1999 and playing in UEFA Euro 1996 and the 1998 FIFA World Cup, helping the team to third place at the latter tournament.
Following his playing retirement in 2001 at Hajduk Split, Bilić coached the team in the second half of the 2001–02 season. Between 2004 and 2006, he managed the Croatian under-21 team before taking over the senior national side from Zlatko Kranjčar in August 2006. He led the team to the quarter-finals of 2008 European championship and left after the next edition four years later. He was praised for his long-standing service to the national side and credited with successfully overseeing the introduction of a series of young players from the under-21 squad to the senior side. He left for the Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow, and then went to Turkey to manage Beşiktaş for two seasons before becoming West Ham manager in June 2015.
In January 1996, Harry Redknapp, manager of English Premier League side West Ham United, brought him to the club for a fee of £1.3 million, setting the club's record for highest fee paid for an incoming player. He made his debut on 12 February 1996 in a 0–1 away win against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Bilić's shot was saved by Tottenham goalkeeper Ian Walker only for West Ham's Dani, another debutant, to divert the ball into the Tottenham goal.
Bilić scored three goals in his time with West Ham: two in the Premier League, against Liverpool and Sunderland, and one in the League Cup against Barnet, heading-in from a Stan Lazaridis corner, his first for the club. He played 13 games in the 1995–96 season and 41 in the 1996–97 season, a season which also saw him voted a runner-up, to Julian Dicks, for the Hammer of the Year award.
In March 1997, Everton manager Joe Royle brokered a £4.5 million move, with Bilić claiming he had a debt of loyalty to West Ham to stay with the club until the end of the season to ensure they were not relegated. West Ham finished in 14th place, two points above the relegation places.
Bilić turned out for Everton in August 1997 after assuring himself of new manager Howard Kendall's full support. He initially brought some class to the Toffees' backline, but his season was marred by bookings that saw him miss several games through suspension.
After his exertions in the 1998 World Cup, Bilić revealed a nagging groin strain that required rest and treatment, which he took back home in Croatia. After missing the first quarter of the season, Bilić was left wondering if he would get back into the Everton side managed by Walter Smith. He did so and showed some good form but could never fully establish himself due to injuries and suspensions.
Everton released Bilić in July 1999. Just two days later, Bilić signed up with his home club Hajduk Split, where he briefly played until retiring.
Bilić went into the 1998 World Cup with Croatia, where the team were the surprise package of the tournament, falling in the semi-finals to hosts France. Croatia finished in third place after winning the playoff game.
Bilić was involved in controversy during the tournament for the role he played in the dismissal of Laurent Blanc in the semi-final with France. With Croatia behind, a free kick was awarded which saw Bilić marking the French defender. He held Blanc and to free himself, Blanc pushed Bilić, making contact with his chin and chest. Bilić fell to the ground clutching his forehead. Bilić later admitted that he was acting, and went down only after encouragement from teammate Igor Štimac. Blanc was sent off and missed the World Cup final through suspension. Bilić did not apologize but did say, "I swear if I could change that so [Blanc] could play in the final, I would."
As a shareholder in his hometown club, Hajduk Split, he temporarily agreed to manage them until the club found a replacement manager. Having admitted that the adrenaline inspired him, he reportedly received guidance after travelling Europe and visiting Arsène Wenger and Marcello Lippi.
Bilić was appointed head coach of the senior national team on 25 July 2006, succeeding Zlatko Kranjčar after the unsuccessful 2006 World Cup. His assistants included former teammates Aljoša Asanović, Robert Prosinečki, Nikola Jurčević, and Marijan Mrmić. One of his first actions in charge of the squad was the promotion of three players from the U-21 squad: Eduardo, Luka Modrić and Vedran Ćorluka, who would all eventually enjoy impressive success and make transfers to the Premier League. The team's first official game under Bilić was the 0–2 friendly win in Livorno against Italy, while Bilić's first competitive game was the 0–0 draw in Moscow against Russia in the opener for their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. Many criticized this result due to Bilić's suspension of Darijo Srna, Ivica Olić and Boško Balaban who escaped from camp three days before the match and went to the night club Fontana in Zagreb. It is likely that no one would have found out, but there was a gunfight and a police intervention.
Further in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, he led Croatia to a very successful campaign in a group consisting of England, Russia, Israel, Macedonia, Estonia, and Andorra. Bilić managed to lead Croatia to a first-place finish in Group E, most notably masterminding home and away victories against England, who consequently didn't qualify and sacked their then-manager Steve McClaren.
At the Euro 2008 tournament itself, where he was the youngest coach, Bilić and the rest of his squad had to participate with a "handicap" as they were without their star striker Eduardo, who sustained a serious injury a few months earlier. Nonetheless, Bilić led his side to an outstanding achievement as they won all three group stage games of the competition, taking maximum points in the group for the first time in their history, which included an impressive 2–1 victory over eventual finalists Germany. Even his side's second string reserve side was seen to be too strong for their final group opponents Poland, who they beat 1–0 due to an Ivan Klasnić goal.
Croatia soon became labelled as favourites for the tournament, but they would soon suffer an exit in the quarter finals against Turkey. Though he admitted that the defeat would haunt him and his squad for the rest of their lives.
Croatia opened their tournament campaign with a comfortable 3–1 victory over The Republic of Ireland, with striker Mario Mandžukić scoring twice. Mandžukić continued his run at the tournament with an equalizer in the 1–1 draw against Italy, which was marred by controversial fan reactions and referee decisions from English official Howard Webb. The team ultimately faced a complicated scenario in the buildup to their final group game against reigning champions Spain. Croatia were ultimately succumbed to a 1–0 defeat. Moments before Jesus Navas scored the game's only goal, Vedran Ćorluka was the victim of a neck-tie tackle by Spain defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets on a corner kick which removed Ćorluka from a goal scoring opportunity in the penalty box. The late Spanish goal, along with Italy's victory over The Republic of Ireland, forced Croatia to exit the tournament in the group stage. However, the team subsequently garnered widespread domestic praise for their tournament performance, and were greeted by a large crowd upon their return. Upon his formal departure, Bilić was also praised for his long-standing service to the national side. Domestic media outlet Jutarnji List labelled him as Croatia's only manager to depart on such positive terms and credited him for his strong revival of the national side during his six-year tenure.
On 14 May 2012, it was confirmed that Bilić had signed a coaching contract with the Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow. Upon the confirmation of signing, Lokomotiv chairman Olga Smorodskaya stated that Lokomotiv had tough competition in signing Bilić, as he was targeted by many clubs around Europe who wanted to sign him as their new manager. Bilić took over the team after the Euro 2012 tournament had finished. His assistants included former teammates and former assistants during his tenure as manager in national team Aljoša Asanović and Nikola Jurčević. Upon his arrival he made his first big signing for the team, signing his ex-Croatian international player Vedran Ćorluka from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of £5.5million. His first official match as the new Lokomotiv manager came on 20 July 2012 in away match against Mordoviya Saransk, ending in 3–2 win for Lokomotiv. Bilić's first season as a manager ended with the Lokomotiv's worst league result, ninth place, since the establishment of Russian championship in 1992. Bilić accepted responsibility for Lokomotiv's failure and was sacked on 18 June 2013.
After leaving Lokomotiv, Bilić entered talks to take over as Beşiktaş manager. The deal was confirmed on 26 June 2013 after an agreement to a three-year contract worth €4.8 million. Bilić signed the contract on 28 June 2013. On 22 September 2013, Bilić was sent-off from the bench by referee Fırat Aydınus during the İstanbul Derby against Galatasaray after Bilić had complained about the amount of time added by the referee. Beşiktaş President Fikret Orman announced on 21 May 2015 that Bilić would leave the club at the end of the 2014–15 season.
Bilić was appointed manager of English Premier League club West Ham United on 9 June 2015 on a three-year contract. In his first Premier League game, West Ham beat Arsenal 0–2 at the Emirates. Three weeks later, he became the first manager to lead West Ham to victory against Liverpool at Anfield since 1963. On 19 September 2015, Bilić led West Ham to a third successive away win 1–2 against Manchester City. It was the first time the Hammers have won three successive Premier League away games since September 2007, only three other sides have recorded away wins at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City in the same Premier League season—Everton (1995–96), Manchester United (2004–05) and Chelsea (2005–06). In Bilić's first season as manager, West Ham finished seventh in the Premier League. The team broke several records for the club in the Premier League era, including the highest number of points with 62, the highest number of goals in a season with 65, a positive goal difference for the first time in the Premier League with +14, the least number of games lost in a season with eight and the lowest number of away defeats with five. Following Manchester United's win in the 2016 FA Cup Final, West Ham took their UEFA Europa League place and qualified for the third qualifying round of the 2016–17 UEFA Europa League.As of 18 March 2017
Bilić has said in a post tournament interview that he and his players compiled and studied many games of their opponents to become very well prepared for tough matches.
Known to be a big fan of music, Bilić relates his teams motivation to such, often encouraging them to listen to inspiring music before and after games. He went on to state "I cannot do my job without music, I need it to relax."
Along with his native Croatian, Bilić is fluent in German, Italian and English, while he also holds a degree in law. As a big fan of rock music, he plays rhythm guitar with his favoured red Gibson Explorer and is a member of Rawbau, a Croatian rock group. In 2008, the band recorded a song for Croatia's performance at Euro 2008 called "Vatreno ludilo" ("Fiery Madness"). Bilić has identified himself as a socialist, and has said, "If you know to share what you own, you live happily and with honor. I am a true socialist. I know I can't save the world on my own; but if there is a struggle against unjustness, I always prefer to be on the frontline, and that is my attitude toward life."Hajduk Split
Yugoslav Cup: 1990–91
Prva HNL: 1992
Croatian Cup: 1992–93, 1999–2000
FIFA World Cup: Third Place 1998
Best Croatian footballer of 1997 by Novi list
Best Croatian footballer of 1997 by Sportske novosti
Ivica Jobo Kurtini Award - 1997
Franjo Bučar State Award for Sport – 1998 (as player) and 2007 (as manager)
Order of Danica Hrvatska with face of Franjo Bučar - 1995
Order of the Croatian Trefoil - 1998