Milan (AFP) – 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 Wednesday.
“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 2 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 looking 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 20m euros net per season — a salary that would have put Pep Guardiola’s world-beating 17.7m euro (£15m) annual salary at Manchester City in the shade.
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 have 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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