Chinese Super League Rumors: Shanghai Shenhua Eyes Wanderers' Tony Popovic as Replacement for Gus Poyet
Chinese Super League club Shanghai Greenland Shenhua FC is reportedly targeting Western Sydney Wanderers' Tony Popovic as a potential replacement for current head coach Gus Poyet after the squad's premature elimination from the AFC Champions League.
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Shanghai Shenhua hired Poyet in November of last year take over from Spaniard Gregorio Manzano, whose contract was not renewed after leading the club to a fourth-place finish in last season's CSL competitions and a Champions League berth for this season.
However, Poyet flopped in his debut match for Shenhua as the team became the first Chinese top-flight outfit in 14 years to get eliminated in the play-off round of Asia's premier club continental competitions. The team was blanked by A-League side Brisbane Roar FC, 0-2, at the Hongkou Football Stadium last week to unpredictably fall out of the running right after their first game of the tournament.
It was an unexpected result, especially after the club acquired former Manchester United and Juventus striker Carlos Tevez in December for a record-breaking salary of $41 million annually. The team also boasts of the services of former Inter Milan and Newcastle United attacker Obafemi Martins, who played in front of Tevez as the lead striker against Brisbane.
The Sun reported that Shenhua "fans could be heard chanting for Poyet to go" during the match against the Roar. The report also mentioned that there is a clause in Poyet's contract that will allow the club to sack him "in case of elimination at the first hurdle of the continent's biggest competition."
This has led to rumors that Poyet's days at Shanghai are numbered right after his first game for the squad.
Meanwhile, Popovic has downplayed a potential Shenhua move, saying that "it (coaching Shanghai Shenhua) is certainly something that's furthest from my mind", according to SBS.
"That speculation is a little bit old (but) that's going to happen with players and coaches alike," Popovic said.
Meanwhile, an anonymous Shenhua spokesperson had denied the rumors saying that the team "made no approach or had any contact with Tony Popovic at all."