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Jovicevic takes over from Bjelica at Dinamo

"Devin Hillman" (2020-04-23)

ZAGREB, April 22 (Reuters) - Dinamo Zagreb named Igor Jovicevic their new head coach on Wednesday, replacing Nenad Bjelica who parted company with the club last week after refusing to take a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic, the Croatian champions said.

The 46-year-old Jovicevic, who had coached Dinamo's Under-18 side since July 2017, treadmill installers said managing the first team was a dream come true at a difficult time as his father Cedo, a former Dinamo player, passed away on April 11 at the age of 68.

"I have mixed emotions because losing my father is a severe blow which I have to face, as he was my idol and a role model how to achieve my goals," Jovicevic told reporters via a Skype press conference.

"On the other hand, this is my childhood dream come true as back in the day I was a fan roaring the team on from the Maksimir stadium's north tier. I am still a fan, I have been here my entire life.

"Being a head coach is also a massive responsibility and I am looking forward to the challenge."

Bjelica, who guided Dinamo to two successive league titles and the 2018 Croatian Cup, parted company with the club by mutual consent on Thursday after declining to take a massive pay cut amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He had made a bright start in this season's Champions League group stage as Dinamo thrashed Atalanta 4-0 at home and drew twice with Shakhtar Donetsk, but missed out on a last-16 berth as they finished bottom of their pool.

Dinamo have won 13 of the last 14 Croatian league titles and this season they top the table, 18 points ahead of closest rivals Rijeka, the only team to have briefly halted Dinamo's domination when they clinched the league title in 2017.

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Mark Heinrich)