Where is Preki? Grant Wahl and Brian Straus have the answer.
Preki Radosavljevic is alive, well and expects to return to coaching. The former Sacramento Republic manager was presumed to be angling for another MLS job with the ambitious expansion candidate but resigned somewhat abruptly in early July. Rumors of his subsequent hiring by Premier League club Leicester City were short lived, and Preki’s ensuing silence has fueled questions, concern, conspiracy theories and the inevitable #WhereIsPreki hashtag.
The answer is mostly in England, where the 2007 MLS Coach of the Year and National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee is working with fellow Serbian-American and noted club flipper Milan Mandaric on nailing down future employment. Multiple sources have told SI.com that Preki, 52, expects to manage Mandaric’s next club and orchestrated his exit from Sacramento in order to do so.
Preki and Mandaric go way back. Mandaric, 77, moved to the U.S. in the late 1960s, made a fortune in computers and invested in assorted soccer teams in the original North American Soccer League and the Major Indoor Soccer League. Preki, an indoor star after leaving the former Yugoslavia in the 1980s, played for Mandaric’s St. Louis Storm (MISL) before leaving for Everton. In 1999, Mandaric made his first investment in English football with Portsmouth. The catalyst was Preki, who introduced his friend to the Pompey board after playing for the club in 1994-95.
Mandaric sold his shares in Portsmouth in 2006, took over at Leicester City the following year and then moved on to Sheffield Wednesday in 2010. This summer, he sold the Championship club to Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri.
Preki is advising Mandaric on his next purchase and will be ready to take the reins once a deal is done. Mandaric’s target(s) is unknown.
“This was not a decision I made lightly,” Preki said in July when announcing his departure from a job where he was believed to be making more than some MLS coaches. “The opportunity ahead is a lifetime dream for me and a chance to challenge myself at the highest level of the game.”
Preki’s wish to coach at a level higher than the USL, which Sacramento won in 2014, was well known to Republic ownership. The club also was aware of the work being done last year by Paul Buckle at Met Oval, a New York City club playing in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Buckle (who is married to NBC Sports Network's Premier League studio host Rebecca Lowe) had played with USL president Jake Edwards at Exeter City, came highly recommended and was available after leaving the manager’s post at Cheltenham Town in February. Preki’s departure and Buckle’s appointment were announced simultaneously.
Sacramento is 4-1-2 under Buckle and two points out of first place in the USL’s Western Conference with two regular season matches remaining.