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September 29, 2021

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Cannavaro leaves Guangzhou FC

Italian football legend Fabio Cannavaro is stepping down as manager of Chinese giant Guangzhou FC, the club announced yesterday, as it faces an uncertain future with its owner Evergrande Group on the brink of collapse.

Cannavaro’s departure had already been widely rumored after he failed to guide Guangzhou FC to a ninth Chinese Super League crown last season.

But the troubles at Evergrande Group, whose potential demise has shaken world financial markets, may well have forced the issue with questions now swirling around the fate of the team.

A statement on the club’s Weibo account said that “after friendly negotiations, Guangzhou Evergrande has decided to terminate Fabio Cannavaro’s contract.”

“We whole-heartedly thank Fabio Cannavaro for his huge efforts and positive contribution to the club, and wish him all the best for the future!” it added.

The writing was already on the wall for the 48-year-old former Italy defender.

He had returned to Guangzhou in 2017 for a second stint, after being dismissed following a failed spell at the club in 2014-15. But last season ended without silverware.

Soon after, the club said it was changing its management structure in a way that appeared to leave Cannavaro with little power.

Chinese media have speculated previously that a stumbling block to sacking Cannavaro outright was compensation. The 2006 World Cup-winning captain reportedly has two years left on his 12-million euro (US$14 million) a year deal.

Uncertainty at the most successful club in recent CSL history adds to turmoil in Chinese football and shines a further spotlight on the precarious finances undergirding the sport in the country.

Earlier this year Jiangsu FC folded just months after wrapping up its first championship due to financial problems at the club’s backer, retail giant Suning.

Severe COVID-19 restrictions, meanwhile, have put a dampener on CSL play, with teams confined for the past two seasons to playing in just two cities and with fan interaction curtailed.

Authorities also upset fans by mandating that starting with the 2021 season, the league’s 16 teams must drop the corporate part of their names and instead adopt more “neutral” names. Guangzhou Evergrande FC became Guangzhou FC, and other clubs have similarly re-branded.

Guangzhou FC’s fate remains unclear. Unconfirmed reports have circulated saying that discussions are under way that could see a government entity and state-owned company taking it over.

The departure of influential foreign players such as former Barcelona and Brazil midfielder Paulinho and his compatriot Anderson Talisca has hampered Guangzhou this season, although Cannavaro did steer the team into the CSL’s championship round.

That is not due to start until December 1 after the CSL went on a 3-1/2-month hiatus to allow the China national team to prepare for the final phase of Asia’s qualifiers for next year’s World Cup.




 

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