Former Socceroo David Zdrilic will become one of the few Australians to ever coach in Europe after accepting a role with German Bundesliga side RB Leipzig.
Zdrilic, who has been Sydney FC’s under-20 coach this season and National Premier League (NPL) assistant coach for the past two seasons, will join the burgeoning German powerhouse as an assistant coach with the club’s under-17 team.
In their first campaign since being promoted from the German second division, Leipzig last season finished second in the Bundesliga and qualified for the UEFA Champions League.
The 43-year-old’s link with RB Leipzig coaching director Ralf Rangnick, who coached Zdrilic during his time as a striker at Bundesliga side SLV Ulm, helped make the SBS presenter’s European coaching aspirations a reality.
Zdrilic joins the likes of Harry Kewell, who coached the Watford under-23 side and is now the Crawley Town mentor, Tony Popovic who was an assistant coach at Crystal Palace and Ange Postecoglou who had a stint as coach of Greek side Panachaiki, as among one of the few Australians to have coached in Europe.
“There is so much excitement around the club and to be a part of it is incredible, I cant wait, “ Zdrilic told The World Game.
“It's not easy to get over to Europe and coach at any level so I knew when the opportunity came I had to take it.
“I spent a month at RB Leipzig last year on a study tour watching how they did things as well as learning from Ralf and the other coaches.
“I highlighted to Ralf I would like the opportunity to one day move over to Europe to coach. He was aware of my role with Sydney FC and my previous coaching experience which played a big part in Leipzig offering me the position.”
Zdrilic helped guide Sydney FC’s under-20 side to the NSW NPL U-20 title last season. He was also assistant to Sydney FC NPL head coach Robbie Stanton as they took out the 2016 National Youth League as well as the 2016 NPL 2 title to gain promotion to the NSW state league top tier this season.
The opportunity to be involved in Germany’s strong youth development, which has helped the country win the 2014 World Cup, 2017 Confederations Cup and was on full display as Germany won the under-21 European Championship last month, has Zdrilic especially excited.
“You see what is happening in Germany where they are pretty much winning everything and producing so many world class players. To have the opportunity to see that first hand is something I am really looking forward to," he said.
“To learn exactly what they are doing and how they are doing it, as well as being involved as a coach, is invaluable experience.
"Hopefully one day I can bring what I have learnt back to Australia."
It will be straight down to business for Zdrilic who is set to start his new role with RB Leipzig this week, assisting under-17 head coach Alexander Blessin, as the club begins pre-season training.
“I have already started my preparation but I am yet to meet with the rest of the coaching staff and discuss their plan leading into the season," he said.
“For me this opportunity is about going over there and learning as much as I can and hopefully take my coaching career to a new level.
“I was lucky enough to combine my coaching aspirations with a career in the media after I retired from playing, but now I have been given a chance to really take the next step as a coach and I can’t wait to get started and give it my all.”