Too little, too late, as Lippi prepares to attempt the impossible for China

By Mark Dreyer Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/25 23:18:40 Last Updated: 2016/10/26 18:18:39

It clearly takes a lot to tempt Italian coaching legend Marcello Lippi out of retirement for one last job, but fortunately for him there are some very deep pockets in China.

While Lippi will be officially announced as the new coach of China's national soccer team on Friday, reports have revealed that he and his team will collect 20 million euros ($22 million) annually over an initial 2-year term.

Given China's precarious state in the final round of Asian qualifying - bottom of Group A after four games - it's less like a final throw of the dice than a ­refusal to accept that the die has already been cast.

Lippi may have led Italy to the World Cup title 10 years ago, but guiding China to the World Cup Finals in Russia from this position would arguably be an even greater achievement.

From the Chinese Football Association's point of view, however, the ­appointment makes sense.

Former coach Gao Hongbo fell on his sword after China's recent loss to ­Uzbekistan, so the CFA had no choice but to appoint a new man. Given China's long-followed model of alternating between foreign and domestic coaches, as has happened with the last dozen or so national team managers, it's clearly time for another foreigner.

Lippi has previously guided ­Guangzhou Evergrande to three Chinese Super League titles, an FA Cup and an Asian Champions League triumph, so not only has he been successful in China, but he knows how to adapt to the quirks found in this particular corner of the world.

Finally - and most importantly - real estate firm Evergrande is reportedly putting up more than three-quarters of the cash for Team Lippi, with the CFA only paying the remaining 4.5 million euros. With that deal on the table, it would have been madness to walk away from a coach of Lippi's undoubted quality, especially since he is the man that many in China have long wished to see at the helm.

Unfortunately, though, none of this really matters.

Three weeks from now, China could be on the brink of mathematical ­elimination from the World Cup, with ­another 10 months of effectively ­meaningless qualification games still to play.

As it is, China is standing at the bottom of a mountain looking up and wondering where on earth to buy some climbing gear.

Lippi himself will return to Italy two years from now significantly richer and with his legacy still intact having failed to achieve the impossible.

And Chinese soccer fans will do what they do best - mourn another national team disaster.

Mark Dreyer is the editor of China Sports Insider.


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