Shanghai: Italian legend Fabio Cannavaro said he wants to sign "a few new faces" after Guangzhou Evergrande's seven-year reign as Chinese Super League (CSL) champions came crashing to a halt.
The former world player of the year's side thrashed Tianjin Teda 5-1 on the final day of the season on Sunday to make it 82 goals for the campaign — a CSL record. But they had already surrendered their league crown to Shanghai SIPG, who sealed their first CSL triumph last Wednesday.
Evergrande finished second, five points behind SIPG, and Cannavaro will be under pressure from the start of next season to regain the title. The 45-year-old former defender, who took over this season from the Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari, said: "Our boss will definitely not be happy about the loss (of the title)."
"I want to talk to him. I still hope to bring a few new faces in and let the passion return to the team," Chinese media quoted him as saying.
Saddled with an ageing squad and poor recruitment during the close season, Evergrande made a slow start to their title defence, putting Cannavaro under the cosh from the off. But when the season took a break for the World Cup in June-July, Evergrande re-signed Brazilian international midfielder Paulinho from Barcelona, initially on loan.
They also sealed a loan move for another Brazilian, the attacking midfielder Anderson Talisca, from Benfica. The 24-year-old made a spectacular impact, hitting 16 goals in 18 league games, and his move was made permanent, even though Evergrande had previously pledged to field an all-Chinese team by 2020.
Evergrande belatedly emerged as the main threat to SIPG, who boast the expensive Brazilians Hulk and Oscar, but lost 5-4 at home to the Shanghai side earlier this month in what was effectively the title-decider.
"For the first time the team didn't win the championship (in eight years), and it's with me (as coach)," said a rueful Cannavaro, who captained Italy to World Cup glory in 2006. "To be honest, it is not very easy to take over a team from two top coaches," he added, referring to Scolari and the Italian Marcello Lippi, now coach of China.
Cannavaro had an ill-fated seven-month spell in charge of Evergrande in 2014-2015 and there were suggestions prior to the World Cup break that he could get the chop again. But his position appears safe for now following Evergrande's vast improvement in the second half of the season.
There is also some leeway because Cannavaro is working with an ageing squad. The average age of Evergrande's starting XI in the crunch game against SIPG was nearly 31, while the Shanghai team's was nearer 27.
Monday's influential Guangzhou Daily said that the "dream" of an eighth CSL crown had been "shattered". But in a sympathetic appraisal, the newspaper added that this was "a result that most people can expect".
Updated Date: Nov 12, 2018 15:13:36 IST