Greek champions Olympiakos Piraeus FC have fired coach Srecko Katanec just three months after appointing the Slovenian.
The 40-year-old had replaced the sacked Panagiotis Lemonis in November, acknowledging at the time the "very difficult task" that lay ahead of him. However, Katanec could not have envisaged that his tenure in the Alpha Ethniki would be so short, today's announcement coming after he questioned Olympiakos's ability to win the championship.
'Stop our co-operation'
"Following yesterday's claims by Mr Katanec that he does not believe a seventh consecutive title can be achieved - contrary to the feelings of millions of fans, players and the board of directors at Olympiakos - we have to end our relationship," a club statement said. "From today the team is the responsibility of Mr Oleg Protasov."
'So much pressure'
Katanec had angered the club with comments in a press conference on Thursday. "I do not know why there is so much pressure on us winning a seventh consecutive league title," Katanec said. "There is a psychosis about it and that has a negative effect on the team and on me. The team will top the standings only if they are worthy of first place. You win the league if you are better than your opponents out on the pitch."
Zahovic fall out
The acrimonious departure is Katanec's second such split in seven months. He resigned as Slovenia coach after the nation's first-round exit at the FIFA World Cup, a campaign which saw star player Zlatko Zahovic return home early after Katanec substituted him 63 minutes into the opening 3-1 defeat by Spain.
A former NK Dinamo Zagreb, FK Partizan and Sampdoria UC player, Katanec built his reputation as one of Europe's brightest young coaches at the helm of Slovenia, guiding the tiny country to EURO 2000™ and World Cup qualification. It was these achievements that tempted Olympiakos into appointing him, club president Socrates Kokkalis saying at Katanec's unveiling: "He is very ambitious - he wants to make a name for himself and the team."
Olympiakos lie second in the Alpha Ethniki, two points behind Panathinaikos FC. When Katanec took charge they were in an identical position, albeit with AEK Athens FC at the summit. The club have been desperate to win the title to surpass the record set in the 1950s when they were champions six years running.
Under Katanec, Olympiakos won seven games, drew four and lost one - against Panathinaikos. His successor, the former USSR international Protasov, has been working behind the scenes at the club he played for in the early 1990s. He becomes Olympiakos's seventh coach in as many years.
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