BEIJING – Former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro has taken the helm at Chinese second-tier club Tianjin Quanjian, marking his return to what is emerging as the world's richest football market.
Cannavaro was scheduled to make his first appearance at an open practice on Friday after arriving in the northern port city of Tianjin on Thursday.
The former defender previously spent a year as coach of Guangzhou Evergrande in the top flight Chinese Super League, followed by a brief stint with Saudi Arabia's Al-Nassr.
"Cannavaro's arrival attracted many fans. I believe his charisma and first-rate level of coaching skills will bring about a strong rebound in Tianjin Quanjian performance," the club said on its Twitter-like Weibo microblog.
As a player, Cannavaro won the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year awards after captaining Italy to the 2006 World Cup.
Top Chinese clubs spent $300 million on foreign stars in the preseason transfer window, strengthening rosters and increasing attendances at home and boosting the league's profile overseas. The presence of big names from Europe and South America such as Ramires, Alex Teixeira, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Jackson Martinez and Gervinho has led to speculation as to whether the CSL can propel the global balance of power eastwards.
Seeking to close a glaring gap in its international sporting prowess, China's government has meanwhile announced an ambitious domestic football development plan that envisions 50 million players joining in the game by the end of the decade, and the transformation of the country into a "first-rate major footballing power" by the middle of the century.
Established in 2006 as Hohhot, BinhaiTianjin Quanjian (prounounced "Chwen-Jeeyen") has had a revolving door of 13 Chinese and foreign coaches prior to Cannavaro, who takes over from Brazilian veteran Vanderlei Luxemburgo, who lasted merely half a season.
Eleven games into the season, the team currently sites ninth in the 16-team China League One, which ranks one tier beneath the CSL.