The Uncelebrated Boro Primorac
Earlier this year you may have picked up on news feeds that Arsenal risked losing their first team coach Boro Primorac to Bayern Munich`s quest for a new manager. How much truth there is in that is hard to say but the mere fact that the story had credibility at all could be considered surprising. He is an odd candidate having made himself pretty invisible for the 12 years he has been at the club. No mean feat for someone as physically imposing as the 6` 3" Bosnian who commands several languages including his native Serb-Croat plus English, French, Japanese, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. A tally not even matched by Wenger.
Vic Akers, kit man and ladies team manager, Gary Lewin our recently departed physio, Neil Banfield, reserve team coach are all pretty recognisable to most committed Arsenal fans. There is every chance that those same fans wouldn`t recognise Boro so readily yet some will tell you that aside from Wenger he is tactically the most important man at the club in respect of the first team.
It is claimed that routinely at half time and full time it is Primorac who will share his tactical observations in a debriefing session with Wenger. Pat Rice is the assistant manager but Primorac is the tactical power behind the throne many would have you believe. Though he himself will usually turn interviewers away with a dismissive "I`m not important enough".
This is the tack he took when a determined Croatian blogger appears to have cornered him in his hotel in Austria 2 years ago during pre season games before the CL qualifier against Dynamo Zagreb. Thanks to this blogger and the benefits of online translation it is possible to get some insight into the media shy coach. Online translation has its challenges as many will be aware but the decipherable content is sufficient to give us some idea of the man.
"I don`t know why I interest you?" he tells the interviewer "I am not the coach of Real Madrid just an assistant to Arsene Wenger. That is not reason enough to interview me."
Persistence pays off as Primorac opens up reluctantly. Asked whether he would look to take over a team himself he answers "It`s hard who knows maybe I`m not capable of this. That would mean being a manager. You must know more than just football. You need to be good on several levels. I would not be a good manager. I could not stand the strain of dealing with the media. In fact I have not seriously thought about it"
With the suggestion he might be considered unambitious without some plans for his future he responds with "What plans? To be Primorac the manager? At Arsenal I have plenty of ambition and that is to be champion of England and champion of Europe. Working on the training ground with the players, helping a good young player is good. I am a happy man doing a job I love. To you should someone always aim to be President of the US?"
He goes on to say that he is happy living in London. While children, son George 27 and daughter Marina 22, live in France where they were born and educated. Whenever he has enough free time he will travel with his wife Nada back to Bosnia and Croatia. He maintains contact with the footballing community there and visits his old clubs regularly. Slaven Bilic is a friend having been at Hadjuk as a youth player when Boro was a first team player. That would have been useful connection when recruiting Eduardo.
He has remained a close friend of Wenger for more than 20 years. When Wenger was assistant manager at Cannes, Primorac was a player. As Wenger moved on to take-over at Monaco Primorac went on to manage Valenciennes. His role in giving evidence in the Marseille corruption scandal that helped bring down Tapie counted against him in the insular society of French football of the time save for the public support of Wenger. Arsene was sufficiently impressed to take him with him when he moved on to Grampus Eight in Japan.
So few speak of him that It is hard to find out just how important his role is. Bob Wilson seems certain "No one should underestimate his importance to Arsenal. He is an integral part of it and he and Arsene are practically joined at the hip. He is an absolute walking encyclopaedia on world football. You could ask him about any player and he would give you his age, weight, his preferred kicking foot and a complete list of his habits. He and Arsene also share the belief that the three most important things in the game are technique, technique, and technique."
Senderos seems aware of his tactical input and also explains his absence from the touchline. "Boro Primorac doesn't sit on the touchline, he goes in the stand to see the game from a different angle. If the boss hasn't seen something, Boro can provide extra information to adjust some positions or tactics."
Ray Parlour shares a view expressed by Wilson that Primorac is a practical joker adding, 'He is a lovely bloke - very popular. He is probably closer to the players than Arsène Wenger because he has been there and done it as a player.' Others, like John Lukic, remember him simply as a 'bits, bobs and cones man`.
You can scour many of the autobiographies and biographies of key figures at the club during the Wenger era such as Adams, Vieira, Pires and Henry in vain for any significant account of his role at the club. That is if he is even mentioned at all. Though I can`t have read them all even books devoted entirely to The Professor have failed to refer to him. If his influence and input were as important as some claim then surely he would warrant some notable acknowledgement by such luminaries. It`s one thing to hide your own light under a bushel, something else when others do it for you. If he doesn`t warrant a mention then how is his profile still large enough for him to be seen as a possible contender for manager of a club as significant as Bayern Munich?
It seems the last person to tell you willingly would be the celebrity averse Boro Primorac.