The Chinese football revolution is showing little sign of stopping as champions Guangzhou Evergrande signed 2006 World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi.
Lippi is one of the biggest names in the world of football, and is now the second highest paid coach anywhere with an annual salary of 10 million euros – only Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid earns more.
Whether this is good news for Chinese football remains to be seen, but it certainly wasn’t good for Lee Jang-soo. Lippi’s predecessor was fired on Thursday.
This was despite the fact that the South Korean took the team from the second tier to the Chinese Super League in 2010.
He then seized the title in 2011 by a massive margin. And if that wasn’t enough, at the time of dismissal, Guangzhou sit on top of the standings at home and in a first ever appearance in the Asian Champions League, won its group in the first stage to move into the last 16.
There was one thing that Lee couldn’t provide, however. Outside East Asia, few knew who he was.
With Guangzhou’s Xu Jiayin, one of the richest men in the country, having already invested around $70 million in players in less than three years, he wanted a coach known around the world.
“It was hard for us to make the decision to let him (Lee) go.” Xu said. “But only by hiring a more high-profile coaching team can the club really develop into an international team.”
“We made the decision to sign Lippi in accordance with the long-term strategic needs of the club,” Xu said. “It’s not a sudden decision. We will not change a head coach only because of his performance in a single match, no matter if it is a win or a loss.”
In a press conference on Thursday, broadcast live on national TV, Lippi admitted that he had been in contact with the club for a year.
He had been without a coaching job since the 2010 World Cup when Italy were surprisingly eliminated in the first round.
That isn’t to say that he hasn’t been in demand. After all, as well as his World Cup success in 2006, he took Juventus to five Italian titles and the European Champions League in 1996.
“My first goal here is to win another domestic league championship for the club and also take it to a higher position in the AFC Champions League,” Lippi said.
“We will also bring Italian soccer ideas to the team,” he said. “We believe that different soccer cultures will help improve China's soccer development.”
Some say that spending ten million euros on getting children to play the game would help it a lot more, but there’s no denying Lippi’s pedigree on the pitch – and his ability to make headlines off it.