Sco­lari leads Guangzhou to sixth straight China ti­tle

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

BEIJING: De­spite the hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars spent by a grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese Super League clubs in 2016, Guangzhou Ever­grande con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate, win­ning a sixth straight ti­tle yes­ter­day. Luiz Felipe Sco­lari made it two cham­pi­onships since ar­riv­ing in June 2015 as the club was held 1-1 by Yan­bian Funde but moved seven points clear of Jiangsu Sun­ing in sec­ond with two games re­main­ing. Guangzhou has dom­i­nated most of the sea­son, helped by Brazil­ian in­ter­na­tion­als Paulinho, who scored against Yan­bian, and Ri­cardo Goulart, the league’s lead­ing scorer, as well as a num­ber of top Chi­nese play­ers.

“Guangzhou are a wor­thy cham­pion for sure,” Mads David­sen, as­sis­tant coach at fourth-placed Shang­hai SIPG, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “This is the sixth ti­tle in a row, so no doubt they are still the strong­est team in China.” De­spite the dom­i­nance, the signs are promis­ing for the Chi­nese Super League. The over­all av­er­age at­ten­dance is set to fin­ish close to the 25,000 mark this sea­son, up from just over 22,000 in 2015. Once again, it is the high­est in Asia,

“The fever here for foot­ball is some­thing I have not seen be­fore,” Choi Yong-soo, the South Korean coach of Jiangsu, was quoted as say­ing by FIFA. “The sta­dium and the fans, it’s all huge.”

Chi­nese clubs such as Guangzhou, Jiangsu, Shang­hai SIPG and He­bei CFFC spent over $400 mil­lion in the win­ter trans­fer win­dow on stars such as Alex Teix­eira, Ramires, Jack­son Martinez and Eze­quiel Lavezzi. In the sum­mer, Shang­hai spent more than $60 mil­lion on Brazil­ian striker Hulk. Choi be­lieves that all the in­vest­ment will make a dif­fer­ence. “The in­fra­struc­ture is well-es­tab­lished and the man­age­ment sys­tem of the club is well-or­ga­nized,” he said. “They es­sen­tially have laid out the ground­work for fur­ther growth. It is an in­dis­putable fact that Chi­nese foot­ball is de­vel­op­ing at an un­prece­dented pace.”

The sea­son also saw a num­ber of prom­i­nent for­eign coaches de­part and arrive. For­mer AC Mi­lan and Ju­ven­tus boss Al­berto Zac­cheroni and ex-Brazil head coach Mano Menezes were fired in the first half of the sea­son by Beijing Guoan and Shan­dong Luneng, re­spec­tively. Menezes was re­placed by for­mer Bayern Munich boss Fe­lix Ma­gath, while ex-Real Madrid and Manch­ester City boss Manuel Pel­le­grini took over He­bei CFFC in Au­gust.

Sco­lari, who has lost just three league games in his time in China, is one of three coaches in the run­ning to be named Chi­nese Super League coach of the year, along with Spa­niard Gre­go­rio Man­zano of Shang­hai Shen­hua and He­nan Jianye’s Jia Xi­uquan.

“I want to say thank you to the play­ers for their ef­forts and the fans for sup­port­ing us so well,” said Sco­lari. “This win was not easy. The league is getting tougher all the time and so it is very sat­is­fac­tory to win the ti­tle once again.”

David­sen agrees that stan­dards are ris­ing. “We now have six or seven quite equal teams as Jiangsu, Shen­hua and He­bei has stepped up this sea­son,” said the Dane, adding that big-spend­ing Tian­jin, pro­moted from the sec­ond tier with coach Fabio Can­navaro, will con­tinue to in­vest in the top tier ahead of 2017. “Tian­jin will prob­a­bly fin­ish in the top half as they have mas­sive fi­nances.”

Sco­lari is ex­pected to leave Guangzhou at the end of the sea­son though the Brazil­ian re­fused to com­ment on his fu­ture on Sun­day. Mar­cello Lippi, who led Guangzhou to three cham­pi­onships from 2012 to 2014, had been set to re­turn be­fore it was an­nounced on Satur­day that the Ital­ian had been ap­pointed as the na­tional team head coach.

The ap­point­ment was warmly re­ceived as an up-and-down year for the na­tional team en­ters its fi­nal weeks. In March, China made the third round of qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the 2018 World Cup for the first time since 2002. One point from the first four games in Group A trig­gered the res­ig­na­tion of Gao Hongbo on Oct. 11.

Lippi will take con­trol of China for the first time against Qatar on Nov. 15. His first ac­tiv­ity as the na­tional team boss was to go and watch for­mer club Guangzhou se­cure yet an­other ti­tle.

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