FIFA World Cup™-winning coach Marcello Lippi has dismissed the possibility of one day coaching China's national team after signing a new deal with Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
The 65-year-old Italian, who inked a three-year extension at the end of February amid speculation he could take the China job, said: "No, no, no. It's not possible. There is absolutely no possibility of coaching the national team."
Lippi led Italy to glory at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, although Gli Azzurri suffered an embarrassing first-round exit at the 2010 finals in his second spell in charge. "I have just signed a new contract with Guangzhou and I'm very happy at the club," the former Juventus manager said before Wednesday's AFC Champions League group game at Japan's Yokohama F. Marinos.
"I'm comfortable here and we have a great team spirit. So I don't want people to think there is any chance of me coaching the Chinese national side going forwards." Former Lyon boss Alain Perrin has since been appointed China coach following a lengthy search to replace Spaniard Jose Antonio Camacho, sacked after a humiliating 5-1 defeat by Thailand last June.
Despite wealthy Guangzhou's emergence as kings of Asian club football, China have a woeful record at the national level. They have qualified for just one World Cup to date, when they lost all three games and failed to score a goal at the 2002 tournament in Japan and Korea Republic.
"The national team is the measure of how much progress a country has made in world football," said Lippi, who last year broke China's 23-year Asian club title drought by leading Guangzhou to the Champions League crown.
"You can see that with Japan, and how Alberto Zaccheroni has got them to the finals again this year," he added of his countryman and close friend. "They have had players like (Hidetoshi) Nakata and (Shunsuke) Nakamura leading the way in Europe, and continued with (Yuto) Nagatomo at Inter Milan and (Keisuke) Honda at AC Milan."
Lippi's new deal with Guangzhou, which keeps him in the southern Chinese city until 2017, came just days after state media reported he had turned down an offer to stay, citing fatigue. His initial hesitation triggered rumours that Lippi, previously linked with England's Tottenham Hotspur before moving to the Far East in 2012, could take up the China hot seat.
Lippi, who steered Juventus to five Italian Serie A titles between 1995 and 2003, led Evergrande to a 4-2 win over Melbourne Victory in their opening Group G fixture two weeks ago thanks to two goals from new signing Alessandro Diamanti. And Lippi insisted the attacking midfielder's move from Bologna to China would not jeopardise his chances of making Italy's squad for this year's World Cup in Brazil. "Obviously the travel between Asia and Europe takes its toll," shrugged Lippi. "But in terms of moving from Italy to Asia I don't think the slight change in level will make that much difference."