Tony Popovic has rocked Western Sydney Wanderers on the eve of the 2017-18 A-League season by leaving the Australian side to take over Karabukspor in Turkey.
Foundation coach and former Australia international Popovic announced his departure on Sunday, just a week before Western Sydney’s season-opening fixture against Perth Glory.
Struggling Super Lig outfit Karabukspor are yet to confirm the 44-year-old’s appointment following the departure of Erkan Sozeri.
Popovic enjoyed success with Wanderers following their foundation in 2012, guiding the Western Sydney-based team to AFC Champions League victory in 2014 – the first Australian side to win the premier Asian club competition, while he also oversaw two A-League grand final appearances.
“Today is a very difficult day to announce my departure from the Western Sydney Wanderers,” said Popovic, who has been linked with Chinese giants Shanghai Shenhua and former club Palace previously.
“The timing is not great and you don’t plan these things. It has come up very recently and it is an opportunity to get my foot in the door in Europe in a big competition. That’s where I’d like to take my next challenge.
“To see where the club has grown in five years, I leave with a lot of amazing memories. I’ve got the utmost respect for our members and fans that have changed the landscape of Australian football.”
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It has been a forgettable start to the season for Karabukspor, who finished 12th in Turkey’s top flight last term.
Karabukspor have won just one of their first seven games to sit third from bottom after a 3-2 loss at Galatasaray on Saturday.
Popovic added in a news conference: “There’s no great timing. It isn’t great timing, we’ve spent 14-15 weeks of pre-season preparing a team that can challenge for the title – which I’m sure they will. But this has just come up last night and this morning, this is not something you can plan for.
“There’s been a change of management overseas and I’ve been given the opportunity to take on that role. It’s certainly not planned and I certainly understand the timing.
“This one was in a league which I think is in a very strong level – it’s in Europe – and I want an opportunity to coach in Europe. It’s an opening for me to do that and to have success in Turkey.”
Wanderers CEO John Tsatsimas thanked Popovic by saying: “Tony has been fundamental to this club’s success and growth since our inception in 2012 and leaves a lasting legacy that this club will use as a platform to continue our rapid growth.
“He will forever remain a great part of our history, leading us on our course to be globally recognised and respected as a football club.
“While we have always known Tony was destined to have a great future coaching on the global stage, just as he did as a player, we are sure he will look back fondly on his time with the Western Sydney Wanderers with pride in the achievements we have made as a group.”
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