China / Top Stories

Fans cool as report says Lippi may be next coach

By Tang Yue (China Daily) Updated: 2016-10-21 08:04

Despite a report that former World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi is close to becoming the next head coach of China's national team, soccer experts and fans remained coolheaded and said they didn't expect the next coach to improve the level of the squad immediately.

The Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport reported on Wednesday that Lippi was "inclined to accept the offer" by the China Football Association and would travel to Beijing soon to discuss the details.

In an announcement on Thursday afternoon, the CFA said the selection of the new head coach was underway, adding that it will make sure a new coach is in place before Nov 1.

Although the signing of Lippi had yet to be confirmed, sports experts were not confident about success with the national team.

"The biggest problem of China's soccer is always expecting big change overnight, instead of developing the sport step by step," said Jin Zhiyang, a former coach of the national team. "It is unrealistic."

Former China coach Gao Hongbo announced his resignation on Oct 11 after a 0-2 World Cup qualifier defeat to Uzbekistan. The loss left China's chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup very slim, with China gaining only one point after four matches and dropping to the bottom of the group.

China will face Qatar in the next round of World Cup qualifiers.

Lippi, head coach of the Italian team that won the 2006 World Cup, came to China in 2012 and guided the club Guangzhou Evergrande to three domestic championships and an Asian Champions League title.

Improving the level of soccer has been one of the priorities of President Xi Jinping.

Even before taking office, Xi underlined his ambitions in 2011, when he said he hoped the national team would qualify for the World Cup, host the event and eventually win it.

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

Corriere dello Sport reported last month that Lippi was set to return to Guangzhou Evergrande under a three-year deal that would be worth 20 million euros ($22 million) per season.

The Beijing Morning Post quoted an insider from Italy as saying that the Chinese national team would offer more.

Bai Qiang, CEO and co-founder of Sport 8, said: "Will spending a flood of money on Lippi change the level of China's soccer fundamentally? I don't think so. Instead, we should invest more in youth development. It will take a long time but will pay off eventually."

AFP and Sun Xiaochen contributed to this story.

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