Italian World Cup winner Marcello Lippi has been appointed the new coach of the struggling China national team, the Chinese Football Association announced on Saturday.
News of Lippi’s appointment initially emerged last month, with further reports suggesting a move was imminent after Gao Hongbo was sacked after China’s 2-0 defeat by Uzbekistan in a 2018 World Cup qualifier earlier this month.
“The Chinese Football Association, after going through their proper procedures, and after discussions with Mr Marcello Lippi, today appoints Marcello Lippi as the men’s national team head coach from October 22,” said the Chinese Football Association.
Lippi, 68, guided Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande to the 2013 AFC Champions League crown as well as three domestic titles during two and a half years with the southern Chinese side and was set to return in place of Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari having left in November 2014.
But earlier on Saturday Guangzhou confirmed they had mutually cancelled the agreement to allow Lippi, who arrived in Hong Kong on Friday before heading over the border to Guangzhou to sign the contract, to take over as China coach.
“Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao Football Club announce today, after discussions with Mr Marcello Lippi, both parties agree to dissolve the contract they signed on August 3,” said Guangzhou.
Return of the king: World Cup-winner Marcello Lippi set for historic deal with former club Guangzhou Evergrande
Lippi, who won the Uefa Champions League with Juventus in 1996 and the World Cup with Italy in 2006, had reportedly been offered a contract worth €50 million (HK$422 million) over three years.
China reached the last 12 of Asian World Cup qualifying, but have managed only one point from four games and next face Qatar in Kunming on November 15 with their hopes of reaching Russia in 2018 in tatters as they trail group A leaders Iran by nine points.
There is an eight point gap to second place Uzbekistan, with only the top two nations guaranteed automatic qualification.
Watch: Marcello Lippi’s Guangzhou Evergrande win the 2013 AFC Champions League
In a tough group, South Korea are third and six points ahead of China with a place in a play-off with the third place finisher from group B at stake, with the winner then advancing to a further two-legged tie with a side from the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association (Concacaf).
In total, China have six games remaining in group A having already lost to South Korea, Syria and Uzbekistan and drawn with Iran, with the campaign for Russia ending in September 2017 ahead of the play-offs taking place in October and November.
China, who are ranked 84th overall in the FIFA rankings and just eighth in Asia, have only ever reached the World Cup finals once in 2002 under Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic.