EXCLUSIVE: Shanghai Shenhua deny rekindled Popovic interest

Chinese powerhouse Shanghai Shenhua have denied rekindling their interest in Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic as pressure mounts on incumbent Gus Poyet.

A-League Rd 1 - Western Sydney v Sydney FC

Popovic looks on during the Sydney derby Source: Getty Images AsiaPac

Responding to a Fairfax Media report heavily linking the cash-rich club with a Popovic swoop, a Shanghai Shenhua official was adamant that Popovic was not on their wish list.

He did, however, concede that Poyet is being heavily scrutinised in the aftermath of the embarrassing midweek Asian Champions League exit against Brisbane Roar.

Shenhua's opening game of the Chinese Super League season on March 5 is at home to last year's runners up Jiangsu Suning, and defeat could spell the end for Poyet.

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"I can say categorically that we have made no approach or had any contact with Tony Popovic at all," said the official, whose club failed to entice Popovic away from Wanderland last November with a $4.5 million offer.

"Of course we are aware of him and what he's done for his club but it's wrong to say there have been any recent talks or approaches.

"We have a coach in place and are looking forward to the new season."

Asked if the club, who boast the world's highest paid player in $52 million man Carlos Tevez, are dissatisfied with Poyet, the official replied: "He, like every coach, is always judged by results.

"Of course it was difficult and a shock for our club not to qualify for the group stages of the ACL but our league season has not begun yet, and there is much football to be played.

"I am not going to speculate on the position of our coach."

While Shenhua remain steadfast that Popovic has not been sounded out for a second time, it's thought that were Poyet to be removed in the coming weeks, it's possible Popovic might come back into consideration, along with several European candidates.

Popovic would want total autonomy over recruitment and the running of the football department at any club he might quit Wanderers for - and that was a sticking point when Shenhua came calling three months ago.

"We finished fourth last season and the son is of course to improve on that," added the official,

"We think we have the squad to do that. The result against Brisbane Roar wasn't what we wanted and we know we have to do better."




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Published 12 February 2017 at 7:00am
By Dave Lewis