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Lippi: One of the world's great coaches

Lippi is the first coach to win both the Champions League and World Cup and the first,and only, to win the Champions League in Europe and Asia. Photograph: (AFP)

AFP Milan, Italy Oct 22, 2016, 03.56 PM (IST)

Italians with selective memories might remember Marcello Lippi as the coach who quit moments after the Azzurri's first-round elimination, as defending champions, from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

But for connoisseurs of the beautiful game the dapper 68-year-old is the wily tactician who, in 2006, ended Italy's 24-year wait to be crowned world champions again.

Lippi, named coach of China on Saturday, won't be expected to work the same magic with a team that is ranked 84th in the world and likely to miss the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

But with one of football's most impressive CVs, coupled with a mandate that should give him significant control over players and resources, the Italian has the tools to put the underperforming Chinese on the road to success.

He was the first coach to win both the Champions League and World Cup and the first -- and only -- to win the Champions League in Europe and Asia (AFC).

Respected for his intricate knowledge of tactics and ability to squeeze every last drop from his players, Lippi's fatherly approach contrasts with his cold and calculated demeanour.

Amid the bombshell of a damaging betting scandal weeks before the 2006 World Cup, Lippi put an arm around the shoulders of his players to steer them, against all odds, to one of the most memorable World Cup finals in recent history.

Few believed Italy's 2006 squad, which included many players who failed to make an impact at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004, would succeed under Lippi.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said Lippi's "humility" and "intelligence" was key as he guided the controversy-hit Italians to international football's greatest prize.

"I've not worked with anyone quite like him. He can stimulate the players to such a degree that everyone gives 120 percent," the Italy and Juventus goalkeeper said prior to the 2006 final.

"He makes every player feel important and treats everybody equally. It is difficult to find all these qualities in a coach."

 

Monumental success

A former defender with Sampdoria, with whom he spent the bulk of his 363-game professional career, Lippi achieved his first significant coaching success by steering Napoli to the 1993-1994 UEFA Cup.

It was a huge achievement, given the financial demise of a club still basking in the triumph of the two titles they won in three seasons while under the spell of Diego Maradona.

When such a coaching talent emerges in Italy, Juventus are never usually far behind, and Lippi was appointed during the summer of 1994.

The silver-haired, straight-talking Tuscan helped Italy's most successful domestic club fill their trophy cabinet over a nine-year period that was interrupted by a comparatively disastrous season at Inter Milan in 1999-2000.

Lippi led Juventus to their second Champions League title (1996), five Serie A titles, one Italian Cup, four Italian Supercups, one European SuperCup and the Intercontinental Cup.

Although he had the likes of Edgar Davids, Zinedine Zidane and Pavel Nedved, he always insisted team unity was key.

"A group of the best players do not necessarily make for the best team," Lippi would say.

He would later go on to manage Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande to three consecutive league titles between 2012 and 2014, setting him up for the next chapter in the career of one of the world's greatest coaches.

 

(AFP)

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