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Chinese Football Association (CFA)

Who replaces Marcello Lippi as China manager? Zlatko Dalic, Fabio Cannavaro and other World Cup qualification possibilities

  • Italian World Cup winner confirms he will step down after Asian Cup in UAE next January
  • Shandong Luneng and former women’s team boss Li Xiaopeng linked
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 2:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 2:14pm

China men’s national team manager Marcello Lippi confirmed on Monday he will not continue in his role after the AFC Asian Cup in the UAE in January.

It had been speculated Lippi would renegotiate with the Chinese Football Association after the tournament to lead China during their qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. But the 70-year-old has put those rumours to bed after confirming he turned down a four-year contract extension.

Lippi has not ruled out coaching another national team “closer to home” and he could return as Italy boss, a role where he won the 2006 World Cup.

Now, the US$28 million dollar question – Lippi’s reported annual salary including contributions from former club Guangzhou Evergrande – is: who will replace him and face the thankless task of trying to get China to their second World Cup?

US$28 million a year China boss Marcello Lippi second only to Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho as best paid

Li Xiaopeng

The 43-year-old has been linked with replacing Lippi in Chinese media and while his dismal record in charge of the women’s national team is a mark against him, the Shandong Luneng manager is arguably the strongest candidate for manager of the year. His side are third in the Chinese Super League and into the Chinese FA Cup final, where they play Beijing Guoan. Qualification for the AFC Champions League is guaranteed and all of this has been achieved with a squad that is not too different from the one with which Felix Magath flirted with relegation last season.

Zlatko Dalic

Croatia are the flavour of the month at the Chinese FA’s headquarters and a move for the man who took the side so close to glory in Russia this summer cannot be ruled out. Whether he would take it is a different matter entirely. Dalic recently rebuffed an approach from a Chinese Super League side to concentrate on taking his national team to the 2020 European Championships.

Fabio Cannavaro

The Guangzhou Evergrande manager was Lippi’s captain during Italy’s World Cup win in Germany and his nascent coaching career has centred on China. The 45-year-old is in his second stint at Tianhe Stadium following a seven-month run in the 2015 season and could win the league this season. The jury remains firmly out, though and his prime achievement so far is securing AFC Champions League qualification with newly-promoted Tianjin Quanjian last season. Evergrande removing themselves from the contract situation after Lippi would lengthen his odds even further.

Vitor Pereira

Similarly to Cannavaro, if he can guide his Shanghai SIPG side to the CSL title then Pereira’s stock will rise enough to be considered for the China national team role. Ending Guangzhou Evergrande’s run of championships will be an achievement that many bigger names have failed to manage and he has also got the very best out of Wu Lei, something the national team need but so often fail to see.

Guus Hiddink

The experienced Dutchman has signed on to coach China’s under-23 side ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. It would not be crazy for the CFA to consider him taking charge of the full national team on top of that. However, he is older than Lippi and most of his recent roles have been short term.

Gao Hongbo

Better the devil you know and a third stint for the 52-year-old former China international striker is not out of the question. He was in charge before Lippi came on to salvage their World Cup campaign and from 2009-2011. Gao also served as assistant manager for two years and has worked in the national youth set-up. The most experienced man for the job is currently with Beijing Enterprises in China League One

Sven-Goran Eriksson

The Swede has just penned a six-month deal with the Philippines national team but that is also only until the end of the AFC Asian Cup. He has history in China having guided Shanghai SIPG to second place in 2015, as well as time with Guangzhou R&F and second tier Shenzhen FC. Eriksson’s international acumen with England and the Ivory Coast has to make him a name to be considered.

Shen Xiangfu

The former China international is a mainstay of the age-group teams of the national set-up and is in charge of the group of 55 players at under-25 level that have been sent to military camp. He also has a great deal of experience managing teams in the Chinese Super League, most recently as caretaker of Tianjin Quanjian before going on to take over the under-25s.

Bora Milutinovic

The Serbian will forever be lauded as the man who took China to their only World Cup in 2002, the fifth nation he reached the competition with. At 74, he has not taken a full-time coaching role for some years but there are those who think that he should be offered first refusal of a job that he has proved to be the most successful at. An unlikely appointment even if it would please the more nostalgic of social media posters.