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Preki: The Player Everton Signed From An Indoor Football League

In modern-day football, scouting departments of professional clubs have a knowledge that spans six continents and nearly 200 countries. We have seen Premier League clubs sign players from Africa, Asia, North America, South America, and even Oceania who have become important players. However, not many teams decide to scout in a different sport, but this was the case with Everton in 1992.
Predrag Radosavljević, more commonly known as Preki, was signed one month before the start of the inaugural Premier League season for £100,000.

Before starting his career in indoor football, the Belgrade-born attacking midfielder was a professional footballer in the Yugoslav first division. Preki was in the youth academy Fudbalski klub Čukarički before signing for Red Star Belgrade in 1982 – the former Everton player made two appearances for Red Star. In 1985, Preki played in an indoor football tournament and impressed the crowd, including Tacoma Stars manager Bob McNab.

The next five years would be the start of an impressive indoor football career for Preki, he made 247 appearances and scored 209 goals for Tacoma. He was a three-time First Team All-Star and the league MVP in 1988 and 1989, these achievements didn’t go unnoticed and Preki earned himself a move to Sweden for Råslätts SK in outdoor football. He played just one season in Sweden before returning to indoor American football, this time signing for St. Louis Storm.

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Preki would spend two years at St. Louis and at the end of the 1992 Major League Soccer indoor league season, he would be offered a trial with Premier League sides Everton and Tottenham Hotspur. The skilful midfielder was invited back to both clubs again but would only be offered a permanent contract by the Toffees. Before signing for Everton, Preki hadn’t played 11-aside football for a full season for seven years and it was a struggle for him when transferring to the Premier League.

“Of course it was a great opportunity (signing for Everton) for me. It took me a while to get my legs back because I’d been away from 11-a-side football for a long time.

“It’s really not easy to do what I did because when you don’t play the game at the top level for such a long time, to come into the Premier League is not an easy adjustment. I wish I came there when I was younger, it would have been different, but you don’t get to choose when the chance comes.”

Preki told the ECHO

In two years, Preki made 53 appearances for Everton (46 in the league) and 28 of those came from the bench; he scored four goals and registered just one assist. After this difficult period, Preki returned to indoor football and signed for San Jose Grizzlies in the Continental Indoor Soccer League, following his former manager Bob McNab. The attack

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ing midfielder would only spend one season with the Grizzlies before signing for Portsmouth, a return to England for Preki.

However, the cross-continent journeyman again left England for America but this time he signed for Kansas City Wizards. It is here that Preki is best known, in total, he spent seven years at the Wizards (with a one-year sabbatical at Miami Fusion) retiring at 42 years old. In his years at Kansas City, Preki was called up to the national team and he played for the USA 28 times, scoring four goals.

Where is Preki now?

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After his playing career ended in 2005, Preki immediately became a coach and his first job was as the assistant manager of Chivas USA. However, he was only in this role for one season before being promoted to the manager of the team; the previous manager (Bob Bradley) left Chivas to become the USA manager and Preki was chosen as his replacement. His time as Chivas USA manager wasn’t very successful and he left the team ‘by mutual consent’ in November 2009.

Preki would only spend one week out of work and he was appointed Toronto FC manager on November 19th 2009. Despite helping Toronto qualify for the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League and winning the 2010 Canadian Championship, the journeyman didn’t last a full season at the club and he was fired on September 14th 2010 along with the General Manager.

The former Everton man spent three years out of coaching but returned to management with Sacramento Republic FC 2014-15 and he also managed St Louis FC in 2017. Since 2018, he has been the assistant manager of Seattle Sounders FC.

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Preki’s career in indoor and outdoor football made him one of the most unique signings the Premier League has ever seen. A legend in indoor football, a Premier League debutant at 28, and a USA international: a career like no other.

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