It’s this clear focus, belief, confidence, and ambition that sets “Popa” apart.

And it’s not as if the former Asian Coach of the Year hasn’t done it before.

After losing an A-League Grand Final in 2013, he picked his troops up and 18-months later, backed by extraordinary fan support, Western Sydney Wanderers made Australian sporting history in Riyadh.

The arrival of A-League goal machine Bruno Fornaroli makes Perth an infinitely stronger side in 2019 and the experience of ACL winner and Socceroo Matt Spiranovic will be another huge factor. 

It's an older side in key areas, with Popovic no doubt factoring that into his squad selections – he's already picked up youthful Roar striker and Olyroo sensation Nick D'Agostino. 

There’ll be some squad movements in and out over the next few months but the core of his Premiership winning squad of 2019 will be on the journey to glory over the coming year.

The 15-week pre-season will again be key as a huge couple of years await Perth Glory. 

One man who won’t be on that journey is Brendon Santalab.

“Santa” retired after Glory’s Grand Final heartache in May, and is currently playing alongside Carl Valeri at ambitious Victorian NPL outfit Dandenong City.

He knows Popa better than most.

The 36-year-old striker was a key part of Wanderers’ incredible run to the ACL final in 2014.

And he believes Glory’s geographic location will be a huge bonus.

But he’s called on FFA - or whichever organization will be running the league next season - to ensure all A-League clubs in the ACL are given fixture relief to counter the travel before and after the midweek clashes in places like Japan, China, and the Korea Republic. 

Santa, what are your overall thoughts on Glory’s historic first ever Asian Champions League campaign in 2020?

Having been with the team last year and with the new additions such as Bruno Fornaroli and others to come, and knowing Popa’s ways and the club’s expectations now, and the culture change, I really feel Perth can really advance through the group stage.

Exactly like it was with us in 2014, anything’s possible after that. I feel they can get through the group stage, without even knowing who they’re drawn with.

Simply because I know Popa and what he brings and what this competition will mean to the players.  He’s got a fantastic core of a squad.

We’re competing with massive budgets so to get through the group stage these days is incredible. That’s the first priority. Group stage qualification.

Once that’s achieved anything’s possible.

Clubs like Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai Shenhua and most big J-League clubs are spending huge sums. Can we ever compete?

We’re competing against huge budgets, true. However, if the salary cap ever went, I believe with the squad Popa’s got, we have a glimmer of hope.

Spots are available to strengthen. But being realistic it’s a huge challenge and one you look at for Aussie teams as being long odds.