By Bhas Kunju & Cesare Polenghi
firstname.lastname@example.org | @BhasKunju
email@example.com | @CesarePolenghi
At midnight on Tuesday, January 15, Radojko Avramovic will draw the curtain on his near-decade long love affair with Singapore.
The now former Head Coach of the Singapore national team, whose contract expired at the end of 2012, will depart for his home nation of Serbia on a Turkish Airlines flight from Changi Airport, leaving behind a legacy as not just Singapore's most successful coach, but also South East Asia's.
As reported on Sunday, the search for Avramovic's successor is nearing an end, with the application process coming to a close on Friday, January 11, and with at least one high profile name linked to the vacant position.
Goal.com Singapore can now reveal that the person in question is former Serie A coach Mario Beretta. The 53-year-old who was last at Serie A side Cesena, confirmed his bid for the Lions hotseat which will likely be decided by the end of February.
Speaking to Goal.com Singapore, Beretta professed his love for Asia and his familiarity with the region.
"I love Asia, I have been to Japan, where I also climbed Mt Fuji, Thailand and Hong Kong," said the Italian.
"Everywhere people are kind and polite. Their culture is really charming. It was a great experience for me going around these countries and I would like to continue to discover Asia."
Apart from his personal love affair with the region, Beretta also added that seeing close friends Alberto Zaccheroni and Marcello Lippi ply their trade in Asia has tempted him to follow suit.
"I watched many games of my friends Zaccheroni and Lippi on TV, they are doing a great job," he said.
"They are excellent coaches and they are obtaining great results also because the Asian players have talent, very good athletic qualities and strong mind, and they really want to learn and improve. Then for a coach it is easier to do a great work with them.
"In Asia, football is growing very fast and the people have a great passion."
Fluent in written and spoken English, Beretta is a rarity among European football coaches, in that he possesses a University degree. He has also authored his own coaching DVD on tactics and given lectures to the Italian Coaches' Associations (AIAC).
But despite a lengthy spell as a club coach, stretching back to 1984, Beretta has had only one brief stint outside of his home nation of Italy, taking charge of Paok Salonicco in the Greece Super League and has never led a national team.
However, the challenges of being a national team coach, especially in helping to groom young talent, has caught the interest of the Italian.
"You can groom young players and follow them through, seeing their improvements," he added.
"I think for a coach it is really satisfying to take care of a young player and give to him all your knowledge and watch him become an adult player.
"I think Asia is the best place to go and work now, you can transmit your passion to everyone and receive back the love and kindness of those people that really love football. As I said they really want to learn and improve their football level and I really want to pass on all my 30 years of experience as coach and my idea of football.
"This kind of experience might be also a great opportunity for me to compare with other people, their different way of thinking, and I can improve as coach as well as a man."
Admittedly, never having been to Singapore, Beretta added that he had heard fond things from friends who have been here, and had the utmost admiration and respect for the city-state.
Football agent Francesco Villa who represents Beretta, also threw his weight behind his clients' bid to become Singapore's next national coach, saying: "Mr Beretta had a long and brilliant carreer in Europe. So now we are looking for a new and different challenge for him based on a serious project."
"Mario is an open-minded person and he will think seriously of taking the position as national team coach in Singapore following Zac's (Zaccheroni) path.
"It is always an honour for a coach to receive an offer to coach a national team and if the project is concrete I think he will accept."