Leekens supports Nikolic decision and denies rumours of political role
Hungary Men's head coach George Leekens has told mlsz.hu how he has accepted Nikola Nikolic's decision to retire from national-team duty and what he thinks about it, while also reacting to recent media reports in his native Belgium linking him with a political position in his home country.
It was last Thursday when Hungary striker Nemanja Nikolic announced he was retiring from international duty to concentrate on his club career. The forward first informed MLSZ President Sándor Csányi of his decision before immediately calling Mr Leekens to relay the news.
"Nemanja Nikolic called by phone and told me that in the future he wished not to play in the national team because he would like to direct all his energy towards his forthcoming duties at Chicago Fire and to spend more time with his family and children", Leekens told mlsz.hu. "As he had been in earlier times, he was honest now too and laid out his standpoint clearly on why he'd decided the way he had. I understood and accepted this. In 'Niko', I recognise a very honest, professional footballer who was an important member of hte national-team community. It is also not beyond doubt that he will be missed but at the same time I understand his decision because it is very difficult to join up with your national team from a faraway country when you play in such a league which doesn't operate according to a European rhythm but in which you morover have a very important role to play at your club. Besides this, it is totally understandable that he should wish to spend more time with his children and family so that you are able to carry out the tasks of a family leader to a suitably high standard".
Hungary's head coach also spoke of his delight that Nikolic will continue to represent Hungarian football overseas and would like to stay in touch with the team the coaches and the leaders.
"It is very important that players retiring from the national team continue to follow the fortunes of the team and remain in contact with the players and the coaches. They can give very useful information which can help us a lot even though they don't take to the pitch anymore. Their views and opinions continue to be important. Therefore I am very happy that we have agreed with Nikolic that we can count on this and on him in this way in the future", Leekens explained.
The experienced Belgian than responded to reports in his home country that he would be running for the position of Oostkamp city council representative back home, emphasising that he has no interest in fulfilling any political role in Belgium.
"I have not wanted to undertake any political role in the past and I wouldn't like this to change in the future either, therefore I won't be undertaking any such position in Oostkamp. Overall, I would like to support the local community from afar. I don't wish to take any role because I live in Budapest and I want to concentrate on all the expected tasks I'll have with the Hungarian national team with all my energy. Currently, this is the most important thing to me", Leekens concluded.