Australian football manager Tony Popovic has been sacked by Greek Super League 2 side Xanthi FC after only nine games in charge.
The announcement was made by Xanthi through their communication channels at approximately midnight (AEDT) as they signalled the 47-year-old’s immediate departure.
Popovic was dismissed from the club despite them winning their last match 2-1 over OF Ierapetra – and having won three of the past four games to sit fifth on the Greek Super League 2 table after nine matches, four points behind leaders Ergotelis.
It’s understood that question marks and discontent over Xanthi’s playing style were the main reason behind the decision to axe Popovic.
Alongside Xanthi president Bill Papas – who is also the chairman of Australian NPL side Sydney Olympic – Popovic joined the Greek side from Perth Glory at the end of the last A-League season.
The vision was to turn Xanthi, who suffered relegation from the Greek Super League last season due to points deductions under their previous ownership, into a viable pathway for Australian footballers to head to Europe.
Several Australian players followed the former Western Sydney Wanderers coach to Greece, including Matthew Jurman, Josh Brillante, Paul Izzo, and Popovic’s sons Kristian and Gabriel.
Popovic also appointed Zeljko Kalac as his assistant coach, but the former Socceroo goalkeeper left the club at the start of February.
Papas thanked Popovic for his time at Xanthi but gave no indication as to why the Asian Champions League winning coach had been sacked.
“I want to thank Tony for the excellent work he has offered to the team since September 2020 when he took office,” Papas said in a translated statement.
“With great sadness and respect for Tony, we announce the end of our partnership.
“I wish Tony and his family all the best for the future.”
It’s the second time Popovic has been sacked in short time after joining a European club, with the tactician also dismissed from Turkey’s Karabükspor after only nine games in 2018.
Popovic famously won the ACL title with the Wanderers in 2014 and also lifted the Premiers Plate in 2012-13 – reaching three Grand Finals during a five-year stint that ended in 2017.
He returned to the A-League with Perth Glory following his sacking from Karabukspor to coach the Western Australian side to the Premiers Plate in 2018-19, before they lost in the Grand Final to Sydney FC on penalties.
Popovic’s sacking coincides with significant pressure building on rookie Melbourne Victory coach Grant Brebner, with the A-League giants winning only one of their first seven games to start the season.