|Full name||Dragan D?aji?|
|Date of birth||30 May 1946|
|Place of birth||Ub, FPR Yugoslavia|
|Height||1.74 m (5 ft 9 in)|
|Playing position||Left winger|
|1961-1963||Red Star Belgrade|
|1963-1975||Red Star Belgrade||364||(150)|
|1977-1978||Red Star Belgrade||25||(5)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Dragan D?aji? (Serbian Cyrillic: ; born 30 May 1946) is a former Serbian footballer who is widely considered to be one of the best Serbian footballers to emerge from former Yugoslavia. Regarded as a preeminent and very proficient left winger, D?aji? has been known for his "great crosses and passes, unstoppable dribbling with great pace, natural technique and some of the best left footed free kicks ever seen". D?aji? is viewed by some football experts as perhaps one of the most underrated players in European football, partly because he played in Yugoslavia. In December 2011, D?aji? was named in being part of "the greatest European Championship XI of all time" by Goal.com.
Born on 30 May 1946, in the small town of Ub, 60 kilometres outside Belgrade, D?aji?'s football career (1961-1978) was spent primarily with Red Star Belgrade. D?aji? was a brilliant left winger who guided a Red Star Belgrade career spanning 590 games and 287 goals by winning five league titles and four Yugoslavian Cups. In 1969, D?aji? received the Sport newspaper's Golden Badge award for Yugoslavia's best athlete. He is considered to have been one of the most important players in the history of the club and is one of only five players to have been awarded the Zvezdine Zvezde status.
In 2013, D?aji? was identified as the greatest Yugoslavian player of all time, and honoured by his inclusion alongside Pele in the best Sheep Draft team of the year.
Though only 17 years and 8 days of age, D?aji? was handed his first team debut by head coach Mi?a Pavi? in a Yugoslav First League match against FK Budu?nost Titograd on 8 June 1963, which finished 0-0. It was the last week of the 1962-63 league season with FK Partizan already clinching the league championship and Red Star hovering in 7th place, out of European spots. The match was played at Omladinski Stadium at Karaburma because Red Star's famous home Marakana was in the final construction stages.
D?aji? might have started out as a left-back, but it was further up the flank that he made his impact. Red Star Belgrade's resident # 11 was an expert dribbler whose sweet left foot provided countless goals for teammate Vojin Lazarevi?, his right wasn't bad either. D?aji? was rewarded for his brilliance with championship medals in 1964, 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1973, while he lifted the cup in 1964, 1968, 1970 and 1971.
European Champion Clubs' Cup success very nearly came his way too. In the 1970-71 season, Red Star Belgrade reached the semi-finals of the top continental club competition, and beat Panathinaikos FC 4-1 in the first leg in Belgrade. D?aji? was suspended for the return in Athens, however, which the Greek team won 3-0 to go through on away goals.
From 1975 to 1977, he played for SC Bastia in France (scoring another 31 times). He is considered to have been one of their most notable players of all time.
D?aji? said about his most well-known international matches (at the UEFA Euro 1968):
I have nice memories from that championship. It's true that our failure in the final hurts me, but from today's perspective, I can say that we made a great result. Some excellent teams were behind us, but against the home side, we were in a subordinate position due to a 'higher power.' The referee Dienst was the Azzurri's twelfth man and they won only due to his help. In those circumstances, our generation couldn't win the gold medal. It's also too bad that there was no Ilija Petkovi? in the repeated match because our game play would have been much quicker.
D?aji? was just 18 when he was first named to the Yugoslav national team. He made his debut on 17 June 1964 in a 2-1 defeat against Romania at the JNA Stadium in Belgrade. D?aji? would go on to earn 85 caps (the most in the history of the Yugoslav national team) and score 23 goals. He became renowned for his passing, dribbling and goal-scoring. His most famous international match was likely the 1968 European Championship semifinal against England, in which his 87th-minute lob over the goalkeeper Gordon Banks gave Yugoslavia a 1-0 victory against the defending world champions. The British press dubbed him "the magic Dragan." He went on to score in the final against Italy but he could not prevent Yugoslavia losing 2-0 after a replay.
He participated in the 1974 FIFA World Cup which was held in West Germany. D?aji? participated in Yugoslavia's opening championship game draw with world champions Brazil and scored one goal in a record victory of 9-0 against Zaire. However, after passing the second stage of the championship, Yugoslavia didn't repeat the results of their opening games. They lost three games in a row, and had to return home.
D?aji? retired as a player in 1978, at the age of 32. Right away, he began performing a role as Red Star's technical director. In his first season in the new administrative role, the club reached the UEFA Cup final. D?aji? became the main decision-maker within the club when it comes to transfer policy.
In 1998, D?aji? became the club's president - a position he resigned from in 2004 due to health issues.
On 31 January 2011, the trial started in which D?aji? was charged of fraud perpetrated during the sale of players from Red Star Belgrade during D?aji?'s time as the president of the club, specifically Nemanja Vidi?. D?aji? pleaded not guilty. The charges against Nemanja Vidi? were dropped. Nemanja Vidi? also denied all accusations against Dragan D?aji?. Many of the people believe that football "agents" wanted D?aji? "out of business" because he had too much influence in Balkan's football market. On 16 November 2012, Tomislav Nikoli?, the President of Serbia, signed an exempt from criminal liability of all charges. This abolition ended all proceedings against D?aji?.
It was stated by local Serbian newspapers in the beginning of December 2011 that D?aji? would return to the administration of Red Star, as it was believed that D?aji? was the only one who could get Red Star back on track. However, nothing came of this. D?aji? spoke to Blic (tabloid daily newspaper in Serbia) after the board meeting, saying: "I spoke with people from the club, the desire to return was not disputed, I wanted to help, because everything that I previously experienced with the club cannot be forgotten. I followed, listened to and read what happened at the meeting, I wanted to come back but nothing happened and life goes on. I remain available and in this case I can only wish Red Star better days."
On 19 December 2012, D?aji? was elected as Red Star President for the third time.
Red Star Belgrade
In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA's Jubilee, he was selected as the Golden Player of Serbia and Montenegro by the Football Association of Serbia and Montenegro as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years.
Ahead of the last draw for the finals of Euro 2012, Goal.com looked back at all the past tournaments since the first edition in 1960 to select a best-ever XI. The greatest European Championship XI of all time featuring Zidane, Van Basten and Maldini also featured Dragan D?aji?. The players were chosen based on their performances for their countries in the European Championship only. Author of the text said: "Regarded by some as Europe's greatest ever left winger, D?aji? was Euro '68's best player. He scored the semi-final winner versus England with a delightful lob before opening the scoring in the final against Italy. Yugoslavia were set to triumph until a late equaliser from Angelo Domenghini forced a replay that Italy won 2-0. In 1976, he was again up to mischief as he ran West Germany ragged in the semis, scoring to put Yugoslavia 2-0 up. Germany forced extra-time with a late comeback and eventually won 4-2. D?aji? was a master dribbler with a vicious left foot."
In 2016, UEFA organized a voting to select EURO-s 11 Best players of all times, from a list of 50. D?aji? was a candidate, the voting took place in May 2016. This time around, D?aji? was not part of the team.