Tony Popovic jets to Europe on Thursday to begin the task of regenerating Greek club Xanthi, newly acquired by fellow Australian Bill Papas.
Perth Glory today officially confirmed the departure of the coach who took them to the 2018-2019 Premiers Plate, with Popovic being joined on the flight to Greece by former Socceroo Zeljko Kalac, who will be his goalkeeping coach.
Kalac, who has been in charge of NPL side Sydney United, informed players and staff of his departure yesterday.
A fourth Australian, Arthur Diles, who worked under Popovic at Western Sydney Wanderers, is already in Greece as the quartet team up for the reconstruction project.
It’s been billed as a ground up restoration, with Popovic given free rein by Papas - who also owns NPL side Sydney Olympic - to craft the club in his own image, within strict financial constraints.
Xanthi are coming off a two-legged promotion-relegation loss to Apollon - but are appealing their demotion to Greek football’s second tier on the grounds they only fielded a youth team for those crucial matches.
The club fell into the Greek Super League drop zone after being deducted points over ownership irregularities, and subsequently released the bulk of the senior squad ahead of the Apollon play-off.
An appeal is ongoing with Greek authorities, with one proposal the expansion of the GSL to 16 teams next season to accommodate both Xanthi and Apollon.
Either way, Popovic is believed to be likening the role to the mission he undertook at Western Sydney Wanderers in their foundation year, pulling the strings across every facet of the operation.
He went on to win the 2014 AFC Champions League as the ultimate confirmation of his methods.
Both Popovic and Kalac, who’s held coaching roles at Sydney FC, Wanderers and Melbourne City, sufferered a sobering experience the last time they headed to Europe together.
The pair lasted just two months at Turkish club Karabukspor before being dismissed back in 2017, amid ongoing upheaval sparked by a change of ownership.
However, with an Australian at the helm at Xanthi, there looks to be more solidity this time around in what a source told The World Game was “a unique opportunity to put his stamp on a European club”.
The Greek season is slated to start on September 12, but that date has yet to be officially confirmed.
With Popovic’s exit assured, a busy off-season is looming at Glory with marquee striker Bruno Fornaroli, who is contracted for another year, believed to be attracting interest from Melbourne Victory.
The Uruguayan, who turns 33 next week, is baulking at proposed pay cuts off 30 per cent or more next season under a proposed new CBA, and may seek to have his contract terminated.