Sports / China

Can Lippi live up to the hype - and the cash?

By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily) Updated: 2012-05-18 07:48

Reporter's notebook

Marcello Lippi looked a little tired when he appeared in the lobby of Guangzhou Evergrande's hotel on a sweltering afternoon on Thursday.

The silver-haired Italian, wearing sport shorts and shoes, cannot wait to meet the club's players for the first time at a training session hours after being announced as the team's new coach.

Outside the hotel, in the press conference room and along the training field, dozens of fans and reporters went with him.

Can Lippi live up to the hype - and the cash?

The fans and reporters might have had the same question as I did - will Lippi really be able to make a difference with the club?

I was a part-time writer for a Chinese-language sports newspaper six years ago, covering Series A and the Italian national team.

Lippi had reached the high point of his coaching career, leading the Italian national squad to the World Cup title.

Impressed most by the then-captain Fabio Cannavaro, who played a decisive role in fighting back balls from Italy's goal area, I didn't pay much attention to Lippi, who always seemed to be smoking a cigar in the coaches' seats.

That was thanks to his soccer concept, which, to some extent, seemed too defensive.

Before his appearance in Guangzhou, a pioneering southern Chinese city that nurtured the club's ownership, Evergrande Group - a leading property developer, Lippi had watched several of the team's games on video.

He said he knew the players' shirt numbers, and will try to learn their names in a short time. But the first real challenge is not remembering players' names - on the field, a coach should know what styles and tactics his team should adopt.

In the current Guangzhou side, the South American trio - Dario Conca, Cleo and Muriqui - have proved their importance on the attacking line. And the team, after its promotion to the top-flight league two years ago, has persistently adopted an attacking style both in the domestic and AFC Champions leagues.

So, will Lippi insist on his Italian-style defensive concept? Or will he simply continue the club's attacking tactics?

If he wants to change the club's current style, does a 2 1/2-year contract give him enough time?

The Guangzhou supporters are waiting for the answer on Sunday, when the team plays against Qingdao Jonoon at the Tianhe Stadium.

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