Lippi mulling of­fer for China’s top foot­ball post

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

FORMER World Cup-win­ning coach Mar­cello Lippi is be­ing tipped to take over as coach of China af­ter be­ing of­fered the job fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Gao Hongbo, re­ports said yes­ter­day.

“Lippi, coach of China,” ran the head­line on the front page of Italy’s se­cond-most-pop­u­lar sports daily Cor­riere dello Sport.

It claimed the Ital­ian mae­stro was “in­clined to ac­cept the of­fer” and added, “In the com­ing days, the former Italy coach will travel to Bei­jing to pore over the de­tails of the Chi­nese foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tion’s of­fer.”

How­ever, the China Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s Huang Shi­wei told AFP the se­lec­tion process for a new coach was con­tin­u­ing.

“Only two things I can tell you now. Firstly, we have ac­cepted Gao Hongbo’s res­ig­na­tion. Se­condly, for the coach can­di­date of the na­tional foot­ball team, we are do­ing rel­e­vant se­lec­tion work and our se­lec­tion has not been fin­ished,” he said.

Former China coach Gao re­signed on Oc­to­ber 11 fol­low­ing a 2-0 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing de­feat to Uzbek­istan.

The re­sult left China’s chances of qual­i­fy­ing for the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia des­per­ately slim.

Sit­ting a lowly 78th in FIFA’s rank­ings, China have claimed just one point from four games and dropped to bot­tom place in a Group A which in­cludes Iran, Uzbek­istan, South Korea, Syria and Qatar.

Lippi, who steered Italy to their fourth and most re­cent World Cup tri­umph in 2006, is not new to work­ing in China.

The 68-year-old coached Chi­nese top-flight side Guangzhou Ever­grande to three con­sec­u­tive Su­per League ti­tles be­tween 2012 and 2014.

Cor­riere dello Sport said last month Lippi was set to re­turn to the club on a three-year deal worth 20 mil­lion eu­ros (US$22 mil­lion) net per season – a salary that would have topped even Pep Guardi­ola’s world-beat­ing 17.7 mil­lion euro an­nual salary at Manch­ester City.

But the Chi­nese foot­ball fed­er­a­tion may be about to cap­ture Lippi at a time when they are look­ing to make huge strides for­ward in the game.

Of­ten a source of na­tional em­bar­rass­ment, im­prov­ing the level of foot­ball at club and na­tional level has been one of the pri­or­i­ties of China Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping.

Even be­fore tak­ing of­fice, Xi un­der­lined his am­bi­tions for Chi­nese foot­ball in 2011: to qual­ify for the World Cup, to host the event and to one day win it.

China has qual­i­fied only once for the World Cup, qui­etly de­part­ing the 2002 edi­tion without scor­ing a goal.

Last year of­fi­cials de­clared foot­ball a com­pul­sory part of the na­tional cur­ricu­lum, with pledges to open 20,000 foot­ball-themed schools by 2017 with the aim of pro­duc­ing more than 100,000 play­ers.

There has also been a splurge of Chi­nese in­vest­ment in some of Europe’s top clubs – In­ter Mi­lan, Manch­ester City, As­ton Villa, Es­panyol and Atletico Madrid to name but a few – and some of the sport’s top stars have been lured to China.

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