Far from Manchester, Pellegrini enters China’s dragons’ den


Shanghai (AFP) – Ex-Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is one man who will not be watching Saturday’s Manchester derby as he takes his bow with Hebei China Fortune in the ultra-volatile Chinese Super League.

At the same time as his successor, Pep Guardiola, is locking horns with Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford, Pellegrini will be pitchside 8,000 kilometres (5,000 miles) away as Hebei host Guangzhou Evergrande in northern China.

Qinhuangdao Olympic Sports Centre Stadium will be a novel experience for Pellegrini, 62, whose CV includes the 2014 English Premier League title and a season with Real Madrid.

But the Chilean will quickly learn that expectations and pressure are sky-high in China, where well-heeled clubs are luring a rising number of star managers — but whose owners are notoriously trigger-happy.

Since the start of the current, 16-team Chinese Super League season in March, no fewer than eight managers have been shown the door, meaning a coach’s chances of long-term survival are slim.

It hasn’t deterred a group of well-known managers who have set up camp in China, including Sven-Goran Eriksson at Shanghai SIPG and Felix Magath at Shandong Luneng.

Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Evergrande are top of the table but he appears under threat with Marcello Lippi, who masterminded the club’s 2013 AFC Champions League victory, tipped to return.

Among this season’s departures was former Juventus and Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who lasted barely two months at Beijing Guoan before fan protests cut short his reign.

Former Chelsea player Dan Petrescu was dumped by big-spending Jiangsu Suning in June, and ex-Brazil boss Mano Menezes lasted just six months at Shandong Luneng before making way for Magath.

– From Gazza to Cannavaro –

It perpetuates an attitude of “short-termism” in Chinese football, both among clubs and foreign managers, said China-based Christopher Atkins, a football agent for RWMG Sports.

“Clubs demand immediate success and when it doesn’t arrive, good managers are easily discarded and written off as failures,” he said, adding that managers also find living in China a challenge.

“Not everybody finds life in the country straightforward… Therefore it is often seen as a short-term money-earner but little more,” Atkins said.

Paul Gascoigne tried his luck during a short-lived spell as Gansu Tianma’s player-coach in 2003, and the annals of Chinese football are littered with brief tenures which came to an abrupt end.

France’s Jean Tigana became one of Shanghai Shenhua’s incredible 27 managerial casualties in the last 22 years when he was sacked only a month into the 2012 season.

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