Shanghai, 2 August, 2019: Rafael Benitez’s arrival grabbed the headlines but Chinese Super League teams have sent the managerial merry-go-round into hyperspeed with five of the 16 clubs making changes in one month.
CSL clubs appear to have lost their nerve as they enter the final third of the season with the championship and relegation fights too close to call.
The biggest shock came on Wednesday when Beijing Guoan axed the German Roger Schmidt and named Bruno Genesio as his replacement.
The 52-year-old Schmidt can feel particularly aggrieved with Guoan third in the CSL, just four points off leaders Guangzhou Evergrande.
The former Bayer Leverkusen coach inspired Guoan to FA Cup glory last season and the capital club began the season with a record 10 CSL victories in a row.
But Guoan moved ruthlessly to replace him with former Lyon manager Genesio following a third defeat in a row in all competitions.
“Professional football is so cruel,” correspondent Yuan Fang wrote in the respected Oriental Sports Daily on Friday.
“High income is accompanied by high risks and high pressure.” Yuan and other Chinese media said there had been murmurs of discontent with Schmidt’s intense training methods, and a feeling that some players were underperforming.
Summing up the thinking at Guoan, Yuan wrote: “Changing coaches means a chance of winning the title, but if you don’t change, the championship is gone.”
Genesio was given a contract until the end of the season, giving him 10 matches to reignite Beijing’s title charge — or likely follow Schmidt out of the door.
Schmidt’s surprise dismissal is a reminder to Champions League winner Benitez that Chinese clubs will not hesitate to bring down the axe.
The Spaniard has, however, made a good start at Dalian Yifang, winning four of his six matches and taking them into mid-table safety.
Benitez’s predecessor Choi Kang-hee replaced Quique Sanchez Flores at Shanghai Shenhua, who under the former Watford manager found themselves in a relegation fight.
Other changes last month saw former AC Milan midfielder Roberto Donadoni arrive at Shenzhen FC, who are fighting to avoid relegation.
Rock-bottom Beijing Renhe, who are four points from safety, also switched coaches, swapping out Aleksandar Stanojevic from Serbia for the Spaniard Luis Garcia.
Of the 16 CSL teams, 11 have foreign coaches.