Italian coach rules out coaching soccer club anymore
China manager Marcello Lippi confirmed that he has refused a four-year extension from the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and will leave after his current contract runs out following the upcoming Asian Cup at the beginning of next year.
"Everybody knows I'll leave after the Asian Cup," the Italian told reporters at a press conference for the 2018 Golden Foot award in Monaco on Monday.
"The CFA has offered to extend my deal for another four years, but I've been far from home for six years, and it's time to return.
"China is too far from my hometown. Now I want to enjoy life with my family."
But the 70-year-old denied that his decision to leave was due to the team's bad results.
"We have tried our best and have seen improvement, although the improvement is not that significant," he said.
Lippi, one of the greatest and most successful coaches in the game, arrived in China in May 2012 as the head coach of Guangzhou Evergrande. He led them to three consecutive Chinese Super League (CSL) titles and won the Asian Champions League in 2013.
The former Juventus, Inter Milan boss was appointed as manager of the Chinese national team in October 2016 when China were at the bottom of their qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup, having earned one point in all four matches.
But under the guidance of Lippi, who led Italy to the World Cup in 2006, China amassed a total 11 points in the remaining six matches, narrowly missing out on a playoff to advance to the next qualifying round.
During the process, China even recorded their first-ever victory over longtime nemesis South Korea in a FIFA-sanctioned tournament.
However, just as long-suffering Chinese fans began to see hope, Lippi's honeymoon with the team faded immediately. In the following 13 games, China won only three and lost six.
Before a 2-0 friendly home win over Syria earlier this month, the team had failed to register a win or even score a goal in the previous three games, and calls came for Lippi to be sacked.
In all the 22 games under Lippi, China won seven, lost eight and drew seven.
While some fans say Lippi is not worth his reported annual wage of 23 million euros ($26 million), most agree China's poor results were not his fault.
"It's impractical to ask a college professor to teach kindergarten kids basic math," @aiguoanaichenli posted on Dongqiudi, one of the country's most popular soccer sites. "Many thanks to the 70-year-old for his two years' guidance of the team."
Lippi's greatest contribution was "to reveal the true shortcomings of Chinese soccer," commented @MESSI-007.
"It only shows the fact that no coach could get good results out of the Chinese national team," opined another fan.
Lippi said he might consider coaching another national team after leaving China if it's "closer to home," but won't work for another club anymore.