I can tell you now, though, that it was not an easy experience for me.
In Spain, I had become used to a different kind of football. Not only that, but it was a different style of life, too. In the beginning, I had to learn many things.
Of course, I had moved countries and changed leagues before in my playing career. I was 25 when I first left my home country, moving from Partizan Belgrade to Oviedo in Spain. But at that time, I didn’t feel the difference so much. We had big teams then – Red Star Belgrade had been champions of Europe. We had big players, too: Zvonimir Boban had been at Dinamo Zagreb; Alen Boksic in Hajduk Split; Predrag Mijatovic at Partizan, too.
The competition was hard. Strong. So when I went to play in Spain, I didn’t detect a big change.
By the time I moved to Chelsea, I was 32 years old and near the end of my playing career. I played for the club for two seasons and it was a tough time for me – both on and off the pitch.
“People called me crazy for leaving a team that had just been promoted. They said it must have been a difficult decision for me to go that summer. But it was not”
But tough times are often the most important ones, and this is true for me. Going through this period meant that when I came back to England as Watford manager in 2014, I knew the mentality of the people. I knew football in England. I knew what was life in England. I knew where I was.
In almost every way, this start felt like an easier one than my first experience here as a player.
Things were better on the pitch, too. After 36 games in charge of Watford, we won promotion to the Premier League. But my future did not belong there.
People called me crazy for leaving a team that had just been promoted. They said it must have been a difficult decision for me to go that summer. But it was not. I didn’t believe they felt I was the right person to take Watford into the Premier League, and they didn’t make enough effort for me to stay.
In this situation, my feeling was that it was better for me and for Watford too, to continue life. It wasn’t complicated. As always, I went with my feeling.