China’s new football manager Marcello Lippi met the press in Beijing on Friday, tasked with salvaging the country’s World Cup qualifying campaign – and instilling a new style of football.
The 68-year-old, who won the Chinese Super League three times with Guangzhou Evergrande and the Asian Champions League, has signed a deal until 2019, the CFA confirmed.
Reports claim Lippi and his backroom staff will receive €20 million a year, though Chinese Football Association chief Cai Zhenhua said he couldn’t comment on the size of the contract.
“China is one of the world’s most important countries [and] I believe I can help Chinese football progress,” said Lippi, who won the World Cup as coach of his native Italy.
“I believe the players are all skillful and have no need to feel inferior or envy toward players of other countries, because they can reach the same level,” Lippi told reporters.
“What they need is a sense of responsibility, mission and belief.”
Lippi, who left Evergrande in 2014, was set to return to the club before all three parties agreed a deal for him to become China boss.
He revealed that the CFA had previously approached him to become manager when he was in Guangzhou.
“[It was] explored as possible … but because I was coach at Guangzhou this possibility could only be postponed,” he said.
“After I finished work at Evergrande and returned to Italy, I had always been thinking to have the chance to go back to China.
“In China I have always felt attention and respect, both for me and my team.”
Gao Hongbo was sacked as manager after China took just one point from their opening four World Cup qualifiers, including a humiliating loss at home to war-torn Syria.
Their qualifying ambitions are almost certainly over, but Lippi insisted there was some hope.
“The current national situation is very difficult,” he said. “It seems there’s not much chance, but we need to unite as one, to make all efforts to complete this improbable mission, and then to consider the issue of long-term development of Chinese football.
“Now we need to build a strong team, they need to have dedication.”
Football-loving president Xi Jinping has urged China to become a footballing superpower, with the three aims of qualifying for, hosting and eventually winning the World Cup.
Cai said the CFA hoped and expected Lippi to raise the level of Chinese football. He pointed to “advanced” football countries like Brazil, Germany, Spain and even Japan as having individual football philosophies and hoped Lippi could instil a new style of Chinese football.
Lippi said players from champions Evergrande would form the base of the national team and that the gap between China and other sides in their qualification group was not as large as it would appear from the points difference.
He added that selecting naturalised foreign-born players would not be part of his plans.