Popovic suddenly left Perth Glory following their finals bow-out to take the reigns at the former Super League club, which have just been relegated to the Greek second tier.

The club have just been bought by an Australian, Sydney Olympic owner Bill Papas, but are in the midst of a legal stoush relating back to their previous owners, who illegally also had shares in league rivals PAOK Thessaloniki.


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The resulting 12-point deduction sealed Xanthi's relegation and financial hardship, meaning Popovic and assistants Zeljko Kalac and Arthur Diles face a rebuilding effort in Thrace.

But the Aussie coach is keen to persevere in Europe following his disastrous last tenure in Turkey and despite similar instability in Greece, an Australian owner presents an enviable opportunity.

“Football there continues to grow, the national team has had lots of success, John van't Schip and Michael Valkanis are with the national team now. It’s a football country,” Popovic told Optus Sport.

“Look at the league and the history of Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, AEK Athens, PAOK - huge and respected clubs all over Europe.

“Greece has a proud history and you see it every year with how well Olympiacos does in the Champions League.

“It’s an exciting league, underrated in some respects and doesn’t get the coverage the major leagues do. The players are very well respected.

"I know what I’m going into, there’s lots of passion, that is the only code that matters in the fans’ eyes. Looking forward to some great days in front of our fans and do them proud and get back into the first division and see the home team playing against like of Panathinaikos and Olympiacos again."

Xanthi are currently appealing their relegation based on the fact they had to field a reserve team towards the end of the campaign and the drama surrounding the controversy - which includes the league's biggest clubs - has embroiled all facets of Greek football and politics over the past 12 months.

“The idea was to join a first division team, but I’m accepting if it is second division. I believe in myself and know I have the knowledge and experience to succeed,” Popovic continued.

“I feel that with the backing of the owner and leadership team, we’ll do everything we can to go back up, but do it in a professional and respectable manner.

“There’s a lot of restructuring going on and we’re still waiting on a ruling. After speaking to Bill, that gave me the confidence to go there regardless of the division.

“I’m excited by the opportunity first and foremost, then the challenge. I’ve always loved a challenge and tackled them head on.

“I’m excited by the opportunity to work in Europe. I want to grow as a coach, compete with the best. I’m excited and feel I can offer something to Xanthi and establish ourselves in the top league.

“It happened very quickly because it was only recently he got the club. They have impressed me, they’re like-minded people and it gives me a lot of confidence.”


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