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Popovic exits Perth Glory for Greece

Perth: Former AFC Coach of the Year Tony Popovic has left 2020 AFC Champions League participants Perth Glory with the conclusion of the A-League season.

Popovic, who was named the continent’s leading coach in 2014 after steering Western Sydney Wanderers to the AFC Champions League title, stepped down having taken Perth to the semi-finals of the 2020 A-League Championship.

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The 47-year-old is expected to be named the new head coach of Greek side Xanthi FC as they attempt to return to the top flight of their domestic competition following relegation at the end of last season.

During his two-year reign with Perth, Popovic also won the A-League Premiership and took the club to the 2019 A-League Grand Final, where they lost on penalties to Sydney FC.

The former Crystal Palace defender has long been linked with a return to Europe having previously coached Karabukspor in Turkey and Perth owner Tony Sage confirmed Popovic was leaving for a fresh challenge.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for him," Sage told the Australian Associated Press.

"He's done fantastic for the club, he loves the club. But clauses in contracts…just like players, I never stop anyone from going. Never have, never will.

"It's an opportunity for him to expand. He brought us our first big silverware of the A-League era, so I wish him very well for the future.”

Popovic’s departure comes as the club undergoes significant changes during the close season in Australia, with Perth having previously announced the departures of Ivan Franjic and Joel Chianese.

However, the club have bolstered their ranks with the signings of Andrew Nabbout from Melbourne Victory and Nathan Atkinson from Melbourne City.

Perth are appearing in the AFC Champions League for the first time in the club’s history and have been drawn in Group F alongside Japan’s FC Tokyo, Ulsan Hyundai from Korea Republic and Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua.

The Australian side have played just one game in the competition so far this year, losing 1-0 to FC Tokyo in mid-February.

The continental club championship is due to resume in September for clubs in the west while competition in the east will restart in October.

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