Darko Milanic will be named as Leeds United’s new head coach today after quitting his job at Sturm Graz during an emotional press conference in Austria yesterday.
The Slovenian announced that he was leaving Graz 24 hours after handling their squad for the final time in a 1-0 win over SK Ried and he should formally sign a deal at Elland Road later this afternoon.
Milanic – a former Sturm Graz player – described the chance to coach Leeds as an opportunity from “another world”, saying: “Who knows when such an offer will come again?”
Leeds have been working on his appointment since he and owner Massimo Cellino met for initial talks eight days ago and his release was secured on Friday after the 46-year-old activated a clause allowing him to buy his way out of his contract at Graz.
He agreed to take charge of the Austrian Bundesliga side during their league clash with Ried on Saturday but the terms of his deal with Leeds were already in place and his arrival will end United’s three-week spell without a head coach.
Milanic said: “It was not an easy decision to go. I really wanted to stay here longer.
“Sturm is my club and here I experienced great times as a player and a coach. I won new friends.
“But then an offer came from a different league, from another world. This is a tremendous opportunity that I had to accept simply because who knows
when such an offer will come again?”
Academy manager Neil Redfearn has worked as caretaker of Leeds since the sacking of David Hockaday on August 28 and United signed off his temporary reign with a classy 3-0 victory against Huddersfield Town on Saturday.
Cellino ruled Redfearn out of the running for the full-time head coach’s job last weekend but promised that the 49-year-old would retain some involvement in first-team affairs.
Milanic, however, is understood to be bringing his assistant at Graz – Serbian Novica Nikcevic – to Elland Road and Leeds are yet to comment on where Redfearn will figure in the new coaching structure.
The deal with Milanic concludes Cellino’s extended search for a new coach in which he spoke with former West Bromwich Albion boss Steve Clarke and came close to appointing ex-Brighton manager Oscar Garcia, the new boss of Watford.
United’s owner also had discussions with ex-Leeds manager Simon Grayson – currently in charge of League One Preston – though the club continue to insist that Grayson was never formally offered the job.
Milanic, meanwhile, has quit his job in Austria after only one full season in charge of Graz, a term which ended in a mid-table finish.
Most of his success as a coach came during five years at Slovenian side Maribor who won nine domestic trophies with Milanic in charge.
He also claimed the league title during a previous reign a ND Gorica.
The former Yugoslavia and Slovenia international – a centre-back who retired through injury at the age of 31 – has a UEFA Pro Licence and is said to be fluent in several languages, including English.
His contract at Graz ran until 2016 but included a provision allowing him to sever the deal for a fixed fee.
He will inherit a United side who moved into the top half of the table after Saturday’s win over Huddersfield and have improved under Redfearn’s guidance.
The club took 10 points from his four league games in charge and will travel to Brentford on Saturday for Milanic’s first game as head coach.