Popovic is destined for world's elite - D'Apuzzo
Massive potential ... Tony Popovic. Photo: Getty Images
ROOKIE Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic could end up leading a top European club or be at the helm of the Socceroos one day, defender Adam D'Apuzzo says.
D'Apuzzo extended his contract with the Wanderers on Thursday until the end of the 2013-14 season.
The 26-year-old had played with the Newcastle Jets for five years from 2006 under coaches Gary van Egmond and Branko Culina. But he says no one compares with Popovic.
Before joining the Wanderers, D'Apuzzo was playing in the state league and considering giving up the sport and, were it not for a call from the Wanderers' inaugural coach, was set for a life in accounting.
D'Apuzzo says he has never enjoyed his football more and says former Crystal Palace assistant Popovic has a lot to do with that.
''I think he's the best coach I've had,'' D'Apuzzo said. ''It seems like he's been doing it for years. The fact that this is the first time he's been head coach is very surprising.
''His demeanour, the aura about him, it's scary how far I think he'll go in the game of coaching. The Socceroos, who knows - or [as] a super coach in England or big European club somewhere, I wouldn't be surprised.''
Former Sydney FC midfielder Shannon Cole has also committed to the club for next season.
The Wanderers sit third on the ladder just months since their formation and their impressive forms continues to attract big crowds.
Cole credits Popovic, who was the Sky Blues assistant coach while he was at the club, with the remarkable rise of the Wanderers.
''I put a huge part of that down to him,'' Cole said. ''It's his vision. He was given the opportunity to build a team from scratch and I don't think he would have predicted that the culture of the entire club would have grown so quickly.
''But he's obviously done the right things in putting the team together and focusing on our style of play.''
Skipper Michael Beauchamp, goalkeeper Ante Covic and Croatian midfielder Mateo Poljak have already put pen to paper on new deals, but the Wanderers are yet to secure the signature of marquee star Shinji Ono. Both Cole and D'Apuzzo are hoping he commits.
''We're hoping just as much as everyone else watching is,'' Cole said. ''He's obviously a very exciting player to have in the league and he's a great guy to have as a teammate.''
Ono set Parramatta Stadium alight with his sensational double in the Wanderers' 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory on Tuesday.
Cole says on top of his world-class skill, the 33-year-old midfielder and veteran of three World Cups also brings composure to the side.
When asked how important Ono was to the team, Cole said: ''Did you watch the game on Tuesday? He's also such a relaxed guy on the pitch. Every game it's like a training run to him and that relaxes the players around him.''
D'Apuzzo, who is recovering from a calf injury, played 102 games over five years with the Newcastle Jets from 2006. Before joining the Wanderers he considered giving up professional football for a career in accounting.
''I was lucky to get a call from Tony [Popovic] … and when I saw what they were all about, the boys they had here and the culture they were trying to produce, I really wanted to be part of it,'' he said.
''It's a unique thing that's happening here and I just want to continue to be a part of it. I'd be stupid not to.''