Italian set to return to Evergrande for 2nd stint: media
Former World Player of the Year Fabio Cannavaro has resigned as coach of Tianjin Quanjian following "friendly discussions," the Chinese Super League (CSL) side announced Monday, amid rumors that the Italian will return to seven-time CSL champions Guangzhou Evergrande for a second stint.
Cannavaro, widely considered one of the best defenders in the game, captained Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 in Germany, and was awarded World Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or that year. The 44-year-old led Quanjian to a third-place finish in their first season in the Chinese top flight and a berth in next year's Asian Champions League.
In November 2014, Cannavaro replaced his former national team coach Marcello Lippi at Evergrande but was sacked half a year later. In June 2016, big-spending Quanjian hired Cannavaro after sacking Brazilian Vanderlei Luxemburgo following a poor run that left them eighth in the second division. The Italian led them to the China League One title at the end of the year and promotion to the CSL.
On Saturday in the final game of the season in Guangzhou, Quanjian defeated Evergrande who had already sealed their seventh consecutive CSL title two weeks ago. With Hebei China Fortune losing away to Shandong Luneng, Quanjian leapfrogged the Qinhuangdao team to a top-three finish and a spot in the Champions League.
Cannavaro's successor in Tianjin will be former Portugal midfielder Paulo Sousa. A member of Portugal's "Golden Generation" along with the likes of Luis Figo and Rui Costa, Sousa won the European Champions League with both Juventus (1995-96) and Borussia Dortmund (1996-97). Having coached teams like QPR, Swansea City and Leicester City, his last job was at Fiorentina before being replaced by Stefano Pioli in June.
According to Quanjian CEO Shu Yuhui, the two sides have signed a one-year contract, with options to extend for a further year. "I don't have specific requirements for him," Shu told reporters about his expectations of the new coach. "I believe we'll have a good result through our hard work next year, which would definitely be better than this year."
Cannavaro is hotly tipped as the next coach of Evergrande. Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari left the Chinese champions after his contract expired last week. Some media reports claimed that Cannavaro and Evergrande have already signed a contract, but neither the club nor the coach has confirmed the claims.
There had long been rumors that Scolari, who led Brazil to their fifth World Cup title in 2002, would not extend his contract with Evergrande, having steered the club to three consecutive CSL titles plus one Champions League trophy in 2015.