Former Socceroo goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac believes Tony Popovic is the best coach ever produced by Australia - in an era featuring home-grown managers such as Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold.
Kalac, who worked as an assistant for Popovic at Western Sydney Wanderers and Turkish club Karabukspor, says although his opinion might be influenced by his relationship with the 44-year-old, he has no doubt the achievements of 'Popa' rank him higher in Australian than any other coach.
"People will say I’m biased but in my view he’s top notch and I’ve worked under some pretty good coaches (with AC Milan, Perugia, Leicester, Roda and Australia)," Kalac told The World Game.
"He’s got panels on anybody produced so far in Australia, and he’s also the youngest (Arnold is 54 and Postecoglou is 52).
"You have to remember he started from scratch at a club which he won the Asian Champions League with a couple of years later.
"That’s probably one of the biggest sporting achievements in Australia. How does an Australian club with a $2.5 million budget do that?
"We used to joke about it because it was such an unbelievable feat. People think it’s easier that what it is."
Popovic and Kalac departed the Wanderers for Turkey shortly before the A-League season began, but the pair were sacked in December after only 11 games in charge of Karabukspor.
Kalac said that the dismissals with nothing to do with the work done by the pair at the club, and revealed they would both jump at a return to Turkey.
"Popa is back in Sydney now and is waiting for the right opportunity to come along - if that was theoretically in Turkey then both Popa and myself would absolutely jump at it," he said.
"It was overall a good experience, other than how it panned out in the end.
"And a lot of that was based on the political turmoil within the club (with the entire board standing down less than two months after Popovic took charge).
"It wasn’t to do with our work, which was very good. Poppa made some important, positive changes there. He had the team training and playing the right way but luck didn’t smile at all on us.
"There was also a huge political in-fight happening at the club and we were caught in the middle of that a bit."