SHANGHAI (AFP) – Fabio Cannavaro’s reign at Guangzhou Evergrande appears to be all but over after the eight-time Chinese Super League (CSL) champions ended a disappointing season under the Italian without silverware.
The most successful team in recent Chinese football history were dumped out of the Asian Champions League in the group stage on Friday night, compounding a poor campaign by their standards.
Soon after, Evergrande said that they were changing their structure so that a general manager will have “main responsibility” instead of the head coach.
In a subsequent announcement, also on the club’s website, it said that veteran international midfielder Zheng Zhi will be general manager.
There was no mention of the 47-year-old Cannavaro, who guided Evergrande to the CSL title last year, but his head coach post appears to now have no power. Chinese media speculated that a stumbling block to sacking Cannavaro outright is compensation. The 2006 World Cup-winning captain reportedly has two years left on his EUR12 million a-year deal.
However, the state Xinhua news agency yesterday quoted a source close to the club saying: “Cannavaro will leave, it is only a matter of time for him and the club.”
“Zheng will take the responsibility of the team’s training, even the transfers,” the source reportedly said.
Now in his second stint as Evergrande coach, Cannavaro has been in charge since November 2017.
Despite taking the club to an eighth CSL crown last year some fans have never been convinced by the Italian as a manager.
In October last year, following a poor run of results, the former Real Madrid and Juventus defender was similarly moved aside for the 40-year-old Zheng, who is a player/assistant to Cannavaro.
On that occasion, Cannavaro was ordered to attend “corporate culture training” but he surprisingly returned after a stint away to lead Evergrande to the title.
If Cannavaro is sacked this time, it will be his second dismissal following a failed spell at the club in 2014-2015. His team surrendered their CSL crown last month with defeat over two legs to Jiangsu Suning.