Chivas have announced that their new head coach will be Serbian Veljko Paunovic. New sports director Fernando Hierro has appointed him after parting ways with Ricardo Cadena. Paunovic has a short coaching career where his biggest accomplishment to date has been winning the 2015 U20 World Cup with Serbia, although his club coaching career following that has left much to be desired.
Although Coach Ricardo Cadena got Chivas to the Repechaje, the failure to once again advance to the Liguilla, as well as the departure of sports director Ricardo Pelaez meant changes were coming to Chivas. Ex-Spanish international Fernando Hierro, an important figure in Spanish football, came in as sports director in a big move. Hierro was the Spanish National Team Sports Director back in 2018, where he had to fire Coach Julen Lopetegui just days before the 2018 World Cup because the FA was incensed that Real Madrid had announced Lopetegui as their next coach after the World Cup. Feeling their coach had violated codes in having already signed a contract during the job meant that because of this, Hierro would have to coach and thus became Spain’s WC head coach where they disappointed by going out in the Round of 16 against the hosting nation, Russia. After the competition, Hierro didn’t return as Director. As expected, Chivas and Cadena would part ways as Hierro would look for another coach, probably a European. Yet Chivas fans might have been surprised in the name as Paunovic had a somewhat successful playing career, but was pretty much unknown, especially to Mexican football.
Paunovic had a good football career, mostly in Spain where he played in clubs like Mallorca and Getafe, with the highlight being his time in Atletico Madrid. After a spell in MLS with Philadelphia Union, he would retire in 2011. He returned to Serbia in 2012 where he coached in the youth system. There he would have his biggest success as he led Serbia to a World Cup, eventually winning the 2015 U20 World Cup. Ironically, on the road to the title, he would defeat (and eliminate) Mexico in the group stage with a 2-0 win before getting to the Round of 16 and defeating Hungary. In the Quarterfinals, they eliminated the United States, then won against Mali in the Semifinals before winning the title with a late win against Brazil. After the win, Paunovic returned to the United States where he coached the Chicago Fire. He lasted three years, and although he had some success, it was really nothing out of the ordinary. After that, he headed to England and took charge of Championship side Reading. There he had much less success and had a couple of incidents, including once getting threatened by Reading fans who stormed the pitch after 7 straight losses. Paunovic and Reading parted ways this past February. Now Paunovic heads to Chivas with only his success in Serbia being noteworthy.
Paunovic is a strange hire to say the least. Still much trust has been placed in Hierro and his decision will be given the benefit of the doubt for now. European coaches in Chivas in recent years have at times been successful, especially Hans Westerhof, who took the team to the Clausura 2004 final. Still, Paunovic has not been able to transfer his youth team success to the club level and will now have to do it for the first time in his most high profile job. Something that doesn’t bode well for Chivas’ future at least in the short term.