The Chinese Football Association is staying silent over speculation that Marcello Lippi could make a surprise return to take over the national team job after Fabio Cannavaro quit this week.
With China’s official state news agency and Italian media outlets reporting Lippi is back in the country ready to sign a deal, the CFA declined a request for comment from the Associated Press.
Cannavaro lifted the World Cup in 2006 as captain of an Italy team that was coached by Lippi. He succeeded the 71-year-old Lippi at the helm of China’s national team in January but handed in his notice after just two games and two defeats against Uzbekistan and Thailand.
“Out of respect for the country that has been hosting me for some years, I feel the duty to communicate that I have renounced my position as head coach of the Chinese national football team,” Cannavaro posted on social media to explain his decision.
Cannavaro was combining the national team post with his position as head coach of Guangzhou Evergrande — a team coached by Lippi from 2012-14 — and announced that he wants to focus solely on leading China’s leading club.
“I wish to sincerely thank Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club and the Chinese Football Association for having offered me the position of the head coach of the two most important football teams in the country, however, this double assignment would take me away from my family for too long.”
It leaves China, ranked No. 74 in the world by FIFA, without a coach just four months ahead of the start of qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
Lippi could be an easy replacement, although his first stint in charge of China from October 2016 until he returned to Italy in January, didn’t produce the results that the CFA hoped for.
China reached the last eight of the Asian Cup despite having the oldest roster in the 24-team tournament.