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Soccer-Levski Sofia coaching carousel claims another victim

Reuters

(Adds Ivanov's appointment, detail)

SOFIA, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Spaniard Jose "Pepe" Murcia became Levski Sofia's 14th coach to quit or be sacked since 2008 when he left the 26-times Bulgarian champions on Monday.

The 49-year-old former Atletico Madrid and Celta Vigo coach, who took charge at Levski in June, was fired two days after guiding the club to their first league victory this season - a 1-0 win over city rivals Lokomotiv.

Levski, who are one of the two most popular clubs in the Balkan country alongside CSKA Sofia, announced Murcia's departure "by mutual consent" in a statement on their website (www.levski.bg).

Levski, who have not won a trophy since 2009, said that Murcia will be temporarily replaced by Levski's sporting director Georgi Ivanov, twice Bulgarian Footballer of the Year.

"I'll be the coach for the time being," Ivanov, who begins his fourth spell as Levski coach, told reporters. "We don't want to take hasty decisions.

"There're other options, we held talks with other Bulgarian coaches but unfortunately things didn't work," added Ivanov, whose third coaching stint at the Georgi Asparuhov stadium lasted only nine days in 2012.

"Murcia wasn't released because Levski are not at the top but because of the team's poor performances."

Crowd favourite Ivanov scored 120 goals in 205 matches during his three spells at Levski as a player between 1997 and 2009 and was instrumental in helping the team win six league titles and four national cups.

Ivanov, however, knows he will have to deal with a hugely demanding and impatient fan base.

Last October, Ivaylo Petev resigned as Levski coach a day after being stripped and forced out of his first news conference by hostile fans, who believed he was a supporter of bitter rivals CSKA Sofia.

Levski, who mark their 100th anniversary this year, are sixth in the standings with four points from three matches, three points behind leaders and bitter city foes CSKA.

Ivanov's first game in charge will be on Sunday when The Blues visit Beroe Stara Zagora. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; editing by Justin Palmer)

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