AGONA Spotlight: Damir Canadi, the Atromitos Miracle Worker
After the 2018/2019 Super League season reached its completion, Damir Canadi announced his departure from Atromitos, bringing an end to a hugely successful stay in Peristeri. The AGONA Spotlight takes a closer look at his time in Greece.
Did anyone realistically think Canadi would transform the Peristeri-based outfit potential into title challengers? Yes, Atromitos weren’t ever in the running when the campaign entered its business end, but the team kept pace with the leading pack for long periods of both the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 seasons.
Two fourth-placed finishes in as many seasons is an achievement to be proud of. Despite having a modest squad, Canadi squeezed the best out of the players, qualifying for the UEFA Europa League preliminaries in two successive campaigns.
SWITCHING FROM PLAYING TO COACHING, MEMORABLE VICTORIES WITH ALTACH
Born in Vienna with a Yugoslav background, Canadi began his professional playing days with Austria Vienna in 1988, going on to play for 13 different clubs in his homeland before becoming a player/coach for Leopoldsdorf in 2001.
Canadi really began to make his name as a coach with SCR Altach. When he joined Altach in January 2013, the organisation was languishing in the second tier of Austrian football, but within a year he took them to the Bundesliga with an excellent promotion-earning 2013/2014 campaign. Nevertheless, while that was already an achievement in itself, Altach soared to new heights with Canadi in the 2014/2015 Bundesliga season.
Against all odds, Canadi inspired newly promoted Altach to third place of the standings with 59 points in 36 games, in turn earning a berth in the 2015/2016 UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds. In that competition, Altach defeated Vitoria Guimaraes, however they then contrived to lose against Belenenses in the playoffs and miss out on the group phase. Canadi left Altach in November 2016 with 77 victories, 33 draws and 44 defeats in 154 matches.
DISAPPOINTMENT WITH RAPID VIENNA
Canadi joined Rapid Vienna - one of Austria’s leading clubs - just one day after departing Altach. Considering his success with Altach, he was expected to continue developing with Rapid, but it turned out to be a miserable spell with the capital club.
Sadly for Canadi, he only lasted 17 matches in the job, as he left in April 2017 with a thoroughly underwhelming record of three wins, six draws and eight defeats. A major step backwards after the fairytale with Altach.
ATROMITOS SUCCESS STORY
For the first time as a manager, Canadi moved abroad when penning a contract with Atromitos in July 2017, and he didn’t have a great start to the 2017/2018 season. Initially, Atromitos failed to win their first four Super League matches, tallying draws against Apollon Smyrnis, Panetolikos, PAS Giannina and AEL while only scoring three goals in the process. However, after getting to grips with Canadi’s demands, the players suddenly clicked into gear. Atromitos would then win their next five consecutive matches, which included shock 1:0 victories over Olympiacos and AEK on the road. The team would drop their maiden defeat on matchday 11 against PAOK in Thessaloniki.
At one point, it seemed Atromitos might even be capable of mounting a surprise title challenge, but they fell away towards the end of the season to claim fourth place and a berth in the UEFA Europa League. In the second qualifying round of that tournament, Atromitos lost to Belarusian side Dynamo Brest in heartbreaking circumstances after conceding a last-gasp goal at the Peristeri Stadium, but the achievement of making Europe in the first place shouldn’t be undermined. Creative Egyptian midfielder Amr Warda - on loan from PAOK - earned the title of the 2017/2018 Nova Sports Most Valuable Player thanks to his fantastic displays.
Taking into account that key players Andreas Gianniotis, Nicolas Diguiny and Warda left in the off-season, many thought Atromitos would fall back into mid-table mediocrity, but Canadi wasn’t having any of it. And once again it was a PAOK loanee who made the difference.
Striking up a productive working relationship with Canadi, 23-year-old Greek international forward Efthymis Koulouris was given a platform on which to shine, striking 19 goals in the domestic championship to become the Super League’s top scorer. With Canadi displaying his tactical intelligence, Atromitos proved a tough nut to crack for the big guns, beating AEK at the Olympic Stadium, holding PAOK to a gritty draw in Peristeri and giving Olympiacos two tough games which ended in narrow 1:2 defeats on both occasions.
Boasting 52 points in the standings, Atromitos finished fourth in the Super League for the second consecutive year under the guidance of Canadi, with the wily Austrian discovering the key to getting the best out of his seemingly modest squad. Players such as Spyros Risvanis, Dimitris Chatziisaias, Dimitris Giannoulis, Madson, Felipe Bruno, Warda and Koulouris have all began to fully realise their potential with Canadi, as he found their strengths and let them take the step to the next level.
Overall, Canadi managed 76 matches across all competitions with Atromitos, achieving 38 victories, 20 draws, a positive goal difference of +49 (117-68) and a points-per-game average of 1.80 in the league. Taking into account Atromitos’ status, a 50% win percentage is remarkable, and alongside the two fourth place finishes in the Super League, he also led the Peristeri-based organisation to two Greek Cup quarter-finals. The only disappointment is the bitter Europa League qualifying loss to Dynamo Brest in the summer of 2018.
Numerical breakdown of Canadi’s Atromitos stint
Super League: 60 matches, 30 victories, 18 draws, 12 losses
Greek Cup: 14 matches, 8 victories, 1 draw, five losses
UEFA Europa League: 2 matches, 0 victories, 1 draw, 1 loss