Jan 1 (Reuters) - Vladimir Petkovic declared himself to be "proudly" continuing in his job as Lazio coach, he said in a statement on Wednesday amid media reports that his predecessor Edoardo Reja took charge of training for the last three days.
Switzerland announced on Dec. 23 that Petkovic had agreed to take over as their national team coach from next season, replacing Ottmar Hitzfeld who will leave after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Italian media have reported that the appointment angered Lazio president Claudio Lotito who intends to fire the Bosnia-born coach rather than allow him to see out his contract which runs until June.
Lazio, whose next match is at home to Inter Milan on Jan. 6, have not made any official comment on Petkovic's situation.
"The coach feels that he is proudly still the coach of Lazio," said a statement released by Petkovic's lawyer Paco D'Onofrio.
"(He) asks for a fair and direct meeting with president Lotito in order to clarify the absurd misunderstanding which has arisen, for the sake of the fans, the players and especially of the club."
"...Petkovic has learned with surprise and sadness about the news of a dispute by Lazio against him, as well as his closest collaborators, following his the commitment he has properly assumed with the Swiss federation and which starts next season," added the statement.
"Immediately after signing the contract on Dec. 23, his moral commitment, as there is no sporting or legal obligation in this sense, was to immediately tell president Lotito before the news became public, reiterating the obvious commitment of continuing the project with Lazio until the end of the season."
Petkovic took over Rome-based Lazio at the start of last season, replacing Reja who resigned after being in charge for two camaigns.
He led them to seventh place in Serie A and the Coppa Italia title by beating neighbours AS Roma in the final.
This season has been less impressive and they are 10th in the table with 20 points from 17 games. Petkovic's future had been the subject of speculation before the Swiss announcement.
"Only a few months ago, the club were united and celebrating a historic triumph in the Coppa Italia, in the context of a winning project which can and must go on until the end of the season as agreed," added Petkovic's statement.
"Through the whole episode, Petkovic has behaved by respecting all the rules and regulations, because it has always been his intention to avoid creating problems with the club, to which he will always be grateful for believing in him."
Petkovic, 50, coached in Switzerland and Turkey before his appointment by Lazio and holds Swiss, Bosnian and Croatian passports. (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Ken Ferris)
- Sports & Recreation
- Vladimir Petkovic
- Claudio Lotito
- Edoardo Reja