A “heartbroken” Lubo Moravcik has paid tribute to his former Celtic and international manager Jozef Venglos, a man he credits for changing his life and career.
Former Aston Villa boss Venglos, the first man from outside Britain and Ireland to manage a top-flight English club, has died at the age of 84.
Venglos spent one trophyless season in charge of Celtic in 1998-99 but is remembered fondly by Hoops fans, partly because of a 5-1 Old Firm win and some exciting football, but mainly for bringing Moravcik to Parkhead.
Moravcik, who also played under Venglos for Czechoslovakia and Slovakia, said: “My condolences go out to Dr Jo’s family and their loved ones. I am deeply saddened by the news as I have known him for almost 35 years.
“It has left me heartbroken. Last night I sat and watched footage of us together during our days in football and the many happy moments we shared. But I hardly slept. I was still awake at 4am thinking about him and his family.
“I also got to know his wife, Eva, and she is a lovely woman. She has made me feel warm and welcome, part of the family. They are all such lovely people.
“It has been my privilege to have Dr Jo in my life, both as a footballer and as a person. He enriched my life in many, many ways.”
Moravcik first worked under Venglos in 1988 as Czechoslovakia qualified for the 1990 World Cup and then reached the quarter-finals.
“It was in the build up to that tournament that I had one of the most important conversations of my life, something that changed me as a footballer and as a person,” he said.
“We had lost to Egypt at home in a preparation game for the World Cup. I drove home in the car with Dr Jo that day. It was a one-hour journey. At that point I was still playing for Nitra in my home country.
“He explained to me what I needed to do to become a better footballer, what I needed to do to bring more maturity and consistency into my game. He reminded me of the sacrifices I was going to have to make to get to the very top. He knew I was capable of so much more and didn’t want to see my talent go to waste.
“It was a turning point in my life. I was only 24 and that open and honest guidance from Dr Jo was exactly what I needed at that time.
“I got my move to St Etienne and enjoyed some fantastic times there. I then moved to Bastia and from there to MSV Duisburg in Germany and things didn’t go very well.
“To be honest, I was thinking about giving up football at that stage. I was not happy in Germany. I was 33 and didn’t think I had much of a future in the game.”
Then Venglos invited Moravcik to sign for Celfic.
“Dr Jo trusted my ability and told me it would be perfect for my career and make me fall in love with football again,” he said. “He assured me it would be a successful move. Well, he was right.
“Celtic was exactly what I needed. I enjoyed many happy times at the football club and even now, 23 years on, I still have a fantastic relationship with the club and the supporters.
“So, again, he saved my career and I went on to enjoy many successes in Scotland, including the Treble in 2001 under Martin O’Neill and a few goals against Rangers.
“I have been extremely fortunate to have Dr Jo in my life. He was a great person, a great teacher and a great mentor. I will miss him very much, as will the game of football.”
Venglos spent one season at Villa immediately after Italia 90, paving the way for an influx of foreign managers.
Both Villa and Celtic said they were deeply saddened by the news and sent their “thoughts and prayers” to their former manager’s family.