The former boss of English Football League clubs Chelsea and Spurs, Andre Villas-Boas, was unveiled as the new coach of Shanghai SIPG on Friday, replacing Sven-Goran Eriksson who was shown the door after guiding the team to third place in the Chinese Super League.
The highly regarded Villas-Boas, who left Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg in May, bucks the trend of aging managers cashing in on China’s football boom as he is just 39 and may have his best years ahead of him.
His appointment, widely trailed in Chinese media, was confirmed shortly after SIPG announced Eriksson’s departure following “friendly discussions,” ending a two-year reign.
“We sincerely hope everything goes well for Mr. Eriksson’s future work and life,” SIPG said on a verified social media account.
SIPG were runners-up in the CSL in Eriksson’s first year at the club, giving them a place in this season’s AFC Champions League, where they reached the last eight.
But Eriksson’s fate may have been sealed when SIPG crashed out to South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, embarrassingly losing the second leg 5-0.
SIPG have been among China’s biggest spenders as money pours into the Chinese game. This year they captured Brazilian forward Hulk for a reported 55 million euro (US$60 million).
Villas-Boas becomes just the latest high-profile coach to be lured to China, whose riches have become a magnet for top foreign managers and players.
The Portuguese was only 33 when he won the Europa League with Porto in 2011, the prelude to spells at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur before his two-year stint at Zenit St. Petersburg.
He is notably much younger than his foreign peers including Guangzhou Evergrande’s Luiz Felipe Scolari (67), Hebei China Fortune’s Manuel Pellegrini (63) and Shandong Luneng’s Felix Magath (63).
Sweden’s Eriksson, 68, coached England from 2001-2006 and went on to lead Manchester City and Leicester City. His first job in China was at Guangzhou R&F in 2013.
The CSL has a reputation for a quick turnaround of managers and Eriksson is not the first to be shown the door after a period of moderate success.
In 2012, Guangzhou Evergrande replaced Lee Jang-Soo with Marcello Lippi mid-season after the Korean coach had taken them to promotion and the CSL title in consecutive years.
Evergrande also moved swiftly to replace Lippi’s eventual successor, Fabio Cannavaro, with Luiz Felipe Scolari after the Italian had guided them to the top of the table last year.
Scolari’s future was also in doubt recently, even though he took the club to a record sixth straight league title this season, with Lippi due to return. But the former Brazilian World Cup winning coach signed a new one-year deal with the club on October 24 after Lippi was allowed to take on the job of running China’s national team.