Juventus star won't overlook MLS

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:28 PM ET

For Hasan Salihamidzic, Juventus’ tour of North America could be a preview of a new chapter in his life.

The 33-year-old midfielder, who won the Champions League with Bayern Munich in 2001, has one year left on his deal with the Italian soccer giants, who will face Fiorentina next Tuesday in a friendly at the Rogers Centre after playing the New York Red Bulls Sunday in New Jersey. When his time in Turin, Italy, is done, the Bosnian playmaker may indeed come knocking at the doors of MLS teams.

“Why not?” he said of a possible move to MLS. “I have one year on my contract, let’s see what will happen.”

He said it’s a goal for his family to one day live in the United States.

“There are a lot of Bosnian people, a lot of Germans (in North America). Why not?”

Juventus is bringing the players who aren’t in training for the World Cup. That means vets like Salihamidzic, Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet will be along for the ride. And, really, this trip could begin with Rod Serling breaking into “You’re travelling through another dimension — a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.” Why?

In true Italian soap opera fashion on Wednesday, Juventus announced that a new manager, Luigi Del Neri — who resigned as Sampdoria boss to take the job — is onboard. But Del Neri’s contract doesn’t begin until

July 1, so the outgoing interim manager, Alberto Zaccheroni, will be managing the team through the North American tour.

In January, Zaccheroni signed a deal to coach Juventus until the end of the season — and the team considers this tour to be the finale of the current campaign, not a preparation for the new one. So Zaccheroni stays on in the lame-duck position.

“For the two friendly games in U.S. and in Toronto, in Canada, we want to finish the old season well,” Salihamidzic said. “It is difficult, we finished in seventh place (in Serie A). We need to work hard to have a good team next year.”

And, even though the team finished the Serie A campaign last week, the players are used to not being able to go on their holidays when the games that count come to an end. This is the third year in a row that Juventus has done a post-season tour; previous campaigns has taken the Bianconeri to China, Hong Kong and Thailand. Money talks, and the teams can’t ignore the pay-cheques that come with these friendlies.

The only key? To keep the players healthy, said the Bosnian midfielder.

“It is important to close everything well,” he said.

As the tour begins, though, Salihamidzic will have a keen eye on Saturday’s Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. And he makes no secret of who he’s supporting.

“I played nine years in Munich, I had so many nice times in Munich, it’s like my team,” he said. “And Inter is not the favourite of Juventus. We are all supporting Bayern Munich.”

And, once the tour is over, Salihamidzic will follow some of his Juventus teammates, such as goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, as they play with Italy at the World Cup. While the midfielder will be happy to see his adopted country do well, he wishes that his homeland would have made it to its first World Cup final.

Bosnia-Herzegovina finished second in a tough qualifying group with Spain and Turkey, and got to the playoffs. But it lost in a two-legged series with Portugal and the dream of making it to South Africa died. But Bosnia-Herzegovina has one of the best young lineups in Europe, with Bundesliga stars Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic leading the charge.

“I was happy to see the team playing so well, we played so good in qualifying, but we lost against Portugal (in the playoffs.) We were so close to the World Cup. We are building for the future, and we will have a very good team. We have a lot of good young players. I hope in coming years we will be in European Cups and World Cups. This team is good. I wish them all the best.”


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