SHANGHAI – Italian World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro on Sunday quit as coach of China after just two matches in charge, both 1-0 home defeats.
It will increase speculation that his mentor and fellow Italian Marcello Lippi is in line to make a shock return, just three months after he left.
The 45-year-old Cannavaro made the announcement on social media and said it was to focus on his family and his job as coach of Chinese Super League (CSL) side Guangzhou Evergrande.
“With due respect for China as a great country, I feel it’s necessary to announce my decision to give up my position as the Chinese men’s coach,” Cannavaro wrote on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.
Cannavaro was appointed Lippi’s successor in mid-March and there was speculation that the China Cup was an audition for the post long term.
If that was the case, former Real Madrid and Juventus defender Cannavaro failed the test, losing 1-0 to Thailand and going down to Uzbekistan by the same flat scoreline.
The 71-year-old Lippi stood down as China coach following a 3-0 defeat to Iran in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup in January but had stayed on as an adviser to Cannavaro.
China’s government under football-fan President Xi Jinping has grand ambitions of hosting and even winning a World Cup one day.
But that appeared further away than ever during Cannavaro’s short stint, after which China slumped to 74th in the FIFA rankings, a rung above Cape Verde – population 550,000 to China’s 1.4 billion.
In his statement, Cannavaro said that the Chinese Football Association and Evergrande “both wanted me to coach the two most important teams in China at the same time.
“But the dual position has left me with no time for my family.”
Cannavaro was one of the finest defenders of his generation and lifted the World Cup as skipper of Italy in 2006, when Lippi was coach.
But he has not reached the same heights as a coach and last season Evergrande surrendered their seven-year stranglehold on the CSL to Shanghai SIPG in Cannavaro’s first season at the helm.
His appointment as China coach six weeks ago was not universally welcomed by fans or media, with some saying that he had not proved himself as a manager.
In contrast, Lippi is held in high regard despite China improving only marginally during his more than two years in charge.
There is widespread acceptance that, with the exception of Espanyol forward Wu Lei, China simply do not have the players to do a lot better.
If Lippi does return – as Italian and Chinese media have speculated – his job will be to guide China to a World Cup for just the second time.
Their only previous appearance came in 2002, when they lost all three games and failed to score.AFP