Everton Past Player Profile
SLAVEN BILIC
Centre-Back

Slaven Bilic  FACTS
Born Split, Yugoslavia; 11 September 1968
Height 6' - 2" (187 cm)
Joined Everton from West Ham United in May 1997 (£4.5M)
Debut v Crystal Palace (h) on 9 August 1997
Nicknames Slav, Harry's Boy
Finale Bristol City (a), 2 January 1999
Left Everton retired injured in February 2000 (with £1M!)
Honours Croatian International - 27 Full caps, Croatian Sportsman of the Year 1997, 98. World Cup Bronze Medal, 1998.
 PREVIOUS CAREER 
 Seasons  Club  Apps  Gls
1988-1993 Hajduk Split (Yugoslavia) 109 13
1993-1995 Karlsruhe (Germany) 54 5
1995-1997 West Ham United 48 + 6 2 + 1
 STRENGTHS   WEAKNESSES 
  • Classy 
  • Stylish 
  • Commanding 
  • Intelligent 
  • Sometimes over-commits 
  • Can't avoid tackling from behind
  • Enjoys "discussions" with the ref...
  • ... and therefore gets lots of cards.
 BIOSKETCH
 
After a sluggish career with unimpressive clubs in Europe, Slaven Bilic appeared to come good while at West Ham.  At the ripe age of 29, he established himself as an accomplished defender in the Premiership.  The classy Croatian was signed from German club Karlsruhe for a West Ham record fee of £1.65M, in January 1996.  Bilic was previously skipper of the German club, and wasted no time in the heart of the West Ham defence demonstrating those keen leadership qualities. 

Bilic originally joined his home club – Hajduk Split, in the former Yugoslavia – at the young age of nine, and spent six seasons there as a professional before moving to Germany in a £750,000 deal in 1993.  Bilic then helped Karlsruhe to the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup before achieving his childhood ambition of playing in the Premiership. 

The cannie Super Slav is fluent in German, Italian and English and is qualified as a fully-fledged lawyer, which should have been a red flag to anyone paying attention.  He played in virtually all of the highly-rated Croatian team's internationals, and was ever-present as they made their way to the quarter-finals of Euro '96, where they fell to eventual champions, Germany. 

Joe Royle persuaded him to join Everton back in March 1997, but Bilic claimed he had a debt of loyalty to The Hammers that saw him stay with the club to the end of the season to make sure they were not relegated.  The reason he stayed for the last two months was apparently because he picked up £200k at the end of the season in a loyalty bonus.  This mockery of loyalty cut no ice with the Hammers fans, however, who turned against the traitor en masse.  He then completed the move to one of the Premiership's "Big" clubs on the dubious pretext of improving his chances of winning trophies.  Ironically, with his help West Ham finished above Everton that season...

When he eventually pulled on the light-royal-blue shirt of Everton in August 1997, after assuring himself of Howard Kendall's full support, he initially brought some class to Everton's backline. Unfortunately, he also brought a degree of misjudgment and frustration.  These qualities tended to dominate in a season where Bilic headed Everton's Badboys table, with 6 yellows, 1 second yellow (automatic red), and 2 further red cards, such that he missed 9 matches through suspension – a quarter of the season!

Returning to the first team after his last suspension, Bilic found himself on the bench as an unused sub at Wimbledon, and again in the crunch final match of the 1997-98 season against Coventry City. In between, Kendall attempted to use him at Highbury as Croatia do – as a creative midfielder – but a brilliant own-goal on 5 minutes set the tone of that disastrous match which Arsenal won 4-0 to claim the Premiership. 

Slaven Bilic will not look back on his first season at Goodison Park as much of a success, especially as West Ham (yet again!) finished above Everton.  Fingered as one who may leave during the summer of 1998, Bilic instead went to impress by playing through to the semi-finals of the World Cup with Croatia.

In the ill-fated semi-final, Bilic became the victim of a vicious and unrelenting backlash at play-acting when he had the audacity to be struck in the face by French defender, Laurent Blanc, who was quite rightly red-carded and missed France's World Cup Final as a result.  For some reason, Bilic's instant but exaggerated response to being struck in the face became a focus of everyone's frustration at the ease with which Fifa's pet referees had been so easily hoodwinked by the game's more culpable professionals.  However, Bilic silence his many critics with another solid defensive performance that helped Croatia claim a deserved Third Place.

But that effort created a problem for Everton that became a protracted sad joke for long-suffering Everton fans.  After his exertions in the World Cup, Bilic revealed a nagging groin strain that required a lot of rest and treatment, which he took in Croatia.  Four months in Croatia, back home with his loving family! Some nonsense about him needing specialist treatment and complete rest...  It seems this episode turned Everton fans against Bilic.

After missing the first quarter of the season, Bilic was left wondering if he would get back into Smith's side following a run of four matches in the reserves.  He did get a run in five senior matches but failed to raise his club game back to the levels of skill and professionalism he showed in the World Cup.

He later stated that the appointment of Walter Smith as Everton manager persuaded him to return to the club after the World Cup finals.  Bilic believed that Smith would be good for Everton, saying: "When I was at the World Cup I had a few offers from really good clubs.  But when I heard that Walter Smith was coming to Everton, I thought, wait a minute, he is a big name, this could be a good situation."  Reading between the lines, it is clear what he actually meant...

"Last season the Everton team, when we were all available, was a good side.  At one stage Howard Kendall was voted manager of the month but that was the only time that we were all available.

"We had such a tiny squad and had so many problems with injuries and suspensions that we were missing senior players virtually every game and we couldn't afford that."

Fine words, but unfortunately they were to underline the serious injury crises developing for Walter Smith, when exploratory surgery in January showed that Bilic had a serious problem which would take months to sort out.  After hanging around Bellefield for the duration, Bilic returned home to Croatia to be with his family during the Nato bombardment of neighbouring Serbia.  

He was due back in camp for the start of training on 5 July 1999, but Everton finally realised the fiscal impact of paying him £27,000 a week for another 3 years, and decided to cut their losses, effectively giving Bilic free reign to strike his own deal anywhere he could.  Bilic's agent went off negotiating his own deal with Harry "Barra Boy" Redknapp for a return to Upton Park, possibly for a cut-price fee.  However, just as this ridiculous move was about to be completed, it all fell apart.  It appears that West Ham had concerns about his long-term fitness, and doubts about securing insurance following Slaven's pelvic problems.

Not wanted by Everton or West Ham, Slaven returned to Croatia in August 1999, where he tried to resurrect his career prospects, and stayed in training.  It should have been no surprise, then, when he turned out for the Croatian national team against Ireland in September... but that caused a furore among Evertonians convinced he was a malingering wastrel swanning it in Zagreb while Everton continued to pay his huge wages.

Protestations that Bilic still wanted to play for Everton cut no ice with the fans who similarly turned on fellow blue, Gary Speed, when he left the sinking ship.  Bilic remained in limbo for the next 5 months, awaiting the decision of Everton's insurers regarding a career loss payout which could have seen Bilic retire early, and benefit to the tune of £3M.

In the event, a somewhat more reasonable agreement was finally reached by the end of February 2000.  Everton agreed to give Bilic a £1M payoff, representing around half of the balance remaining on his lucrative contract, which still had 28 months to run.  Bilic signed up with his home club, Hajduk Split, just 48 hours later!

 
 EVERTON CAREER STATISTICS 
Season Squad
Number
League
Apps(sub)
League
Goals
Cup
Apps(sub)
Cup
Goals
TOTAL
Apps(sub)
TOTAL
Goals
1997-98 28 22 (2) - 3 (-) - 25 (2) -
1998-99 28 4 (-) - 1 (-) - 5 (-) -
1999-2k 28 - (-) - - (-) - - (-) -

Totals: 26 (2) - 4 (-) - 30 (2) -

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