Japan's Urawa Reds announce Mihailo Petrovic as new manager

Japan's largest club finished 15th this season, but hope to turn things around next year with the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima boss appointed to guide the team
J-League club Urawa Reds officially announced on Wednesday that they have reached an agreement to install Mihailo Petrovic as the team's next manager.

The 2007 Asian Champions League winners finished a dismal 15th in 2011 after firing manager Zeljko Petrovic with just five matches remaining. Caretaker Takafumi Hori barely suceeded in avoiding relegation by winning just two games, but supporters were far from satisfied with the result and club chairman Mitsuo Hashimoto's traditional end-of-season speech was drowned out by boos and chants demanding he resign.

Serbian Petrovic, who also holds an Austrian passport, took over at Sanfrecce Hiroshima in June 2006. Although the team lost their promotion/relegation series in 2007, Petrovic led them back to the top division by sweeping through J2 in 2008. Sanfrecce set a club record for attendance in their 2009 return to J1, placing fourth and earning a berth in the 2010 ACL.

After finishing the last two seasons in seventh place, Sanfrecce chose not to renew their contract with Petrovic due to financial difficulties. The veteran manager is known for both his aggressive style of attacking football as well as his skill in raising young players. The move will reunite Petrovic with central midfielder Yosuke Kashiwagi, who played at Sanfrecce for four years before a transfer to the Saitama club in 2010.

The announcement comes as a big relief to the Reds after offers to former Gamba Osaka coach Akira Nishino and former Japanese national team manager Takeshi Okada were rejected.

Okada is said to be on the verge of taking over the vacant coaching position at Chinese side Hangzhou Greentown, while Nishino has indicated that he is keeping his options open after leading Gamba to five titles and eight top-three finishes in 10 seasons.

Now that the Reds have finally settled on a coach for 2012, work has begun on acquiring the players needed to rebuild the troubled squad. According to Sponichi, the club may soon make offers to three current Samurai Blue members: former Reds and current Leicester City defender Yuki Abe, FC Koln centre-back Tomoaki Makino, and Sanfrecce striker Tadanari Lee.