Tigres task Paunovic with taking club back to the finals

The Serbian manager returns to Liga MX just six months after leaving Guadalajara
Robert Siboldi (left) shakes hands with Velijko Paunovic before a Liga MX match between Tigres and Chivas. On Sunday, Paunovic was officially named as Siboldi's replacement as Tigres manager.
Robert Siboldi (left) shakes hands with Velijko Paunovic before a Liga MX match between Tigres and Chivas. On Sunday, Paunovic was officially named as Siboldi's replacement as Tigres manager. / ULISES RUIZ/GettyImages

Tigres didn’t waste much time filling its coaching vacancy.

A week after the surprising decision to rescind a contract extension offer to Robert Siboldi, the Northern Giants have signed former Chivas coach Velijko Paunovic to a two-year deal.

After reaching two consecutive finals in his first two season on the job, Siboldi came up short in the Clausura 2024, eliminated in the semifinals by crosstown rivals Monterrey.

Even so, the coach and the team had hinted that a contract extension was imminent, but the early headlines proved to be premature.

After six months, Serb returns to Liga MX

Paunovic is back in Liga MX after walking away from the Guadalajara job under mysterious circumstances after two seasons at the helm.

The 46-year-old manager on Sunday was officially hired by Tigres to replace Siboldi and he hit all the right chords during his presentation to the media. "I am proud to return to this wonderful country, to the Liga MX and to take charge of a giant club," he said, paying tribute to Tigres' history and its fans.

Paunovic started his coaching career in 2012 with Serbia's junior teams, guiding his country's Under-20 team to the 2015 FIFA World Cup title.

After that, Paunovic spent four years in charge with the Chicago Fire of MLS, then managed English Championship side Reading from August 2020 until February 2022. In late 2022, Guadalajara hired Paunovic and he took over beginning with the Clausura 2023 campaign, a season that almost ended with silverware.

Paunovic took over a ninth place team and guided the Chivas to a 10-4-3 record, their 34 points good for a third-place finish. Guadalajara then thrilled Chivas Nation by dumping crosstown rivals Atlas in the quarterfinals before stunning No. 2 seed America to advance to the Liga MX finals.

"El Rebaño Sagrado" came up short in the finals against Siboldi and Tigres. The precocious Chivas took an early 2-0 lead but could not protect against the savvy Tigres who got a goal in overtime to claim their eighth Liga MX title.

The Apertura 2023 was an up-and-down season for the Chivas who finished in fifth place with an 8-3-6 record. The season was marred by rumors of locker room turmoil (one rumor insinuated Paunovic and captain Víctor Guzmán had come to blows though both denied that a fight had occurred) and alleged threats from the powerful drug cartel that dominates the region.

Paunovic reportedly submitted his resignation after Matchday 12 amid whispers that CJNG drug lords were making demands that spooked the Serbian manager. Paunovic finally did step away after the Chivas were eliminated in the quarterfinals by UNAM.

Paunovic arrives with Tigres training camp already in progress and Liga MX pundits are already speculating about the changes the new manager might seek to impose.


The new boss had success with Guadalajara's academy players so some wags propose Paunovic will seek to start a youth movement at the veteran-laden club. There are already plenty of stories predicting who will be traded (winger Luis Quiñones is a popular choice), but the Apertura 2024 is still four weeks away so it's likely Paunovic will want to take an extended first-hand look at his roster before he starts shuffling things in the locker room