Former Everton midfielder Li Tie was named as coach of China’s men’s football team on Thursday, tasked with reviving their World Cup qualifying campaign after Marcello Lippi’s abrupt departure.
The Chinese Football Association said Li, who played in China’s only World Cup appearance in 2002, is an “outstanding representative of Chinese football players” and was appointed after an open process.
Li is already familiar with the national side having been in temporary charge during the East Asian championships in South Korea last month.
The 42-year-old was the manager of Chinese Super League club Wuhan Zall before his appointment.
“It is believed that under the leadership of the coach, the Chinese national men’s football team will work hard to train and prepare scientifically with a high sense of mission and honour,” the Chinese Football Association said in a statement.
Li’s permanent appointment follows a turbulent year for Chinese football when Lippi’s resignation put another dent in the government’s hopes of making the country a superpower in the sport.
The Italian 2006 World Cup-winning coach stormed out of the role in November after a 2-1 defeat to Syria left China five points adrift in second in their qualifying group for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The former Juventus and Italy boss reportedly earned 180 million yuan ($25 million) per year, making him one of the best-paid coaches in the world.
President Xi Jinping and his communist government’s stated aim is for the country of 1.4 billion to host and eventually win a World Cup, but they will first want to turn the page on an eventful 2019.
Lippi, 71, initially quit in January after taking China to the Asian Cup quarter-finals, where they lost 3-0 to Iran, and his compatriot Fabio Cannavaro took over as caretaker.
But Cannavaro, also coach of Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande, lost both of his two matches in charge before Lippi returned in May.
The CFA backed Li to “strive to build a national team that is ‘good at fighting and has a good style of work’, and plays every game well”.