Dragan Stojkovic has revealed that he turned down the Serbia job before current boss Mladen Krstajic was given the job permanently last December.
Stojkovic won 84 caps for Yugoslavia during his playing career and he also spent time playing for both Marseille and Red Star Belgrade.
Serbia made it to this summer’s World Cup, their first major tournament since 2010, by finishing top of their qualifying group ahead of Republic of Ireland, Wales and Austria.
Speaking with Goal on the speculation that linked him with the Serbia job a few months ago, Stojkovic said that even though the job interested him, he was ‘focused’ on his role managing Chinese side Guangzhou.
“That is true. But since I’m in Guangzhou and signed a contract here, it’s hard to do two things at once. I am focused on my daily work here,” he said.
“There was then the opportunity to take the job for just two months and qualify for the World Cup, but I didn’t think it was serious. Because if I’m busy in one place, I have to be essentially focused on that task. Since I was with Guangzhou, it was impossible.”
Serbia were drawn into Group E in this summer’s World Cup with Brazil, Costa Rica and Switzerland. They are currently top of their group, having defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in their opening game.
And Stojkovic believes that his friend Krstajic will guide Serbia well, having failed to come to terms on his own managerial deal.
“We talked about a lot of things and when they saw my contract and the fact that I was committed elsewhere, they tried to find an intermediate solution. But that didn’t suit me,” he added.
“As for Mladen Krstajic, he’s my friend and he played with me in the national team. He is a former player and has experience. But it’s true that as a coach it’s a bit difficult. But it’s the choice of the federation. I think he will do good things.”
Serbia are in the ascendency to qualify for the last 16 of the competition ahead of Costa Rica and Switzerland in second place. They will be hoping for a positive result against the Swiss next time out to solidify their position in the group before they play tournament favourites Brazil in their final group game.
“We had a lot of problems in the last eight years. We didn’t play in a World Cup or Euro’s between 2010-2018, qualifying for the World Cup was the priority,” he continued.
“This team managed to qualify. It was very important for Serbian football, the federation and the people who were waiting for this result. Now we are in a group where Brazil is the favourite. But with Switzerland and Costa Rica, I think we can fight for second place.
“What am I waiting for? Like everyone in Serbia, a qualification for the round of last 16 at least. It will already be a good result for us. Facing the Swiss and Costa Ricans, it’s playable.”