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Lee Jangsoo: The best, and most unlucky, manager in China

The news that Lee Jangsoo was fired came as an absolute shock to me, the strict Korean manager has done everything he could for Guangzhou Evergrande and had just miraculously led them out of the group stage. The man has worked magic everywhere he’s gone in China and has won more trophies than any other current Chinese Super League manager.

Lee’s record in China speaks for itself:
Chongqing Lifan 1998-2001 
Won the CFA Cup in 2000, had them in the top 5 in two of his four seasons with the club.
Qingdao Jonoon 2001-2003
Won the CFA Cup in 2002, had them in or near the top 10 each of his seasons there
Beijing Guoan 2006-2009
Deserves all the credit for their Chinese Super League title in 2009, during his other seasons they were runners up once and finished third twice. When he was fired, the club was in first place with a month of the season left.
Guangzhou Evergrande 2010-2012
Won the China League in 2010 and the Chinese Super League in 2011, saw them through to the ACL Round of 16 in 2012. When he was fired, the club was in first place a third of the way through the season.

However, titles aren’t enough for Evergrande boss Xu Jiayin, nor does it matter if one’s qualified for the job, he’s just a star fucker who wants the most famous manager he can get. In Marcello Lippi, Xu’s got himself a great manager, he’s won the Serie A five times and has a Champions League and World Cup medal in his trophy case. Yet Lippi has never coached outside of Italy, the headaches of dealing with a translator all the time and adjusting to a wholly foreign culture will be totally new to him.

When he gets to Guangzhou he’ll have to deal immediately with a team rife with internal problems and prima donna superstars who think they are above the team. He’ll also have to deal with the malaise that has set in down south after winning the title last season, nobody seems to care much anymore. And an owner prone to making asinine decisions (like firing the manager who just won you a title the year before and is was on his way to winning you another one).

So once again, Lee’s very unlucky. When he was fired late in 2009, it was publicly because of a bad run of form, though speculation in the capital has long been that he was fired because the club didn’t want to see a Korean lead the club to its first title. This time around it once again appears to have little to do with performance, despite the constant public denials issued by Guangzhou and their statements of support for Lee, in the end it seems Xu wants to upgrade his manager, and what he wants, he gets.

With Barrios on the way, there will be no excuses for Lippi, he’ll have to learn about his players right away and the pressure will be on. Nothing short of the Chinese Super League title and a good run in the ACL will be acceptable. As for Lee, his quality and experience are sure to have him in high demand. With Qingdao struggling in the cellar, a return to the eastern coast may be the most likely bet, but Lee is sure to be on the speed dial of any club owner that is considering firing his manager in the next few weeks.

No manager, Chinese or foreign, has been more successful in handling Chinese Super League clubs than Lee, whether Lippi knows it or not, he has some big shoes to fill. Good luck, Old Lee, you’ll find a new position and earn the love of yet another set of fans very soon.

 

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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