- Associated Press - Thursday, May 17, 2012

GUANGZHOU, CHINA (AP) - Marcello Lippi has been hired to coach big-spending Chinese Super League team Guangzhou Evergrande and plans to bring an Italian style to the club immediately.

Evergrande released a statement Thursday saying it had hired the World Cup-winning Italian coach until November 2014. Lippi later appeared at a news conference broadcast live on Chinese television to discuss his appointment.

“My arrival should be a big deal and the most important thing in China today,” Lippi said in comments translated from Italian. “I will start my work today, the same way I did in Juventus and Inter Milan. The most important thing is to bring the Italian football concepts to China.”

The 64-year-old Lippi replaces South Korean manager Lee Jang-soo, who took Guangzhou to promotion and then the 2011 Chinese Super League title. Evergrande also is the only Chinese club through to the last 16 of the Asian Champions League.

Lippi led Juventus to five Italian titles over the 1990s and 2000s and Italy to the 2006 World Cup title. He stood down from the Italian job after winning the World Cup but was reappointed in 2008 and guided Italy to another World Cup, quitting again after the Azzurri’s shocking first-round exit.

Lippi said he’d been watching Evergrande’s matches for several weeks, including the Chinese Super League and the Asian Champions League.

“I almost know all the players now,” he said. “I am glad to accept the invitation from Evergrande.”

Guangzhou owner Xu Jiayin’s stated goal is to make Evergrande a continental powerhouse and Lippi is part of his grand scheme. The club also broke the Chinese transfer spending record to sign Argentine playmaker Dario Conca.

“We need everybody to be passionate and confident about it,” Lippi said. “I promise to work with my utmost passion and professional knowledge.”

Chinese soccer has long been mired in corruption and underachievement. Lippi’s arrival is further evidence, however, of the drive to use the country’s burgeoning financial strength to emerge from its lowly status at both club and international level, where it lags far behind neighbors South Korea and Japan.

Shanghai Shenhua made world headlines at the start of this year by signing ex-France international Nicolas Anelka, who has since been promoted into a major coaching role. Shanghai has also been linked with a move for Anelka’s former Chelsea teammate Didier Drogba.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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