Fabio Cannavaro’s two-year reign as Guangzhou Evergrande coach appears to be all but over after captain Zheng Zhi took temporary charge of the Chinese Super League leaders on Monday.
The club made the announcement following a 2-2 home draw on Sunday against mid-table Henan Jianye, cutting Guangzhou’s lead at the top of the CSL to one point.
The 46-year-old Italian did not attend the post-match press conference and his side have now won just one match in nine games in all competitions.
On Wednesday, Guangzhou went out of the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League 3-0 on aggregate to Japanese side Urawa Reds.
In a brief “special announcement”, the seven-time CSL champions said that the 39-year-old skipper Zheng would take charge on Monday while Cannavaro attended “corporate culture training.”
The club did not explain the move or give further details on Cannavaro’s status.
The World Cup winner was seen on video shaking hands with people and saying goodbye as he left the stadium.
If Cannavaro is sacked by Guangzhou — as seems likely — it will be the second time, following a failed stint there in 2014-2015.
It has been a turbulent seven months for the former Real Madrid and Juventus defender.
In March he was named coach of the Chinese national side, to go with his job at Guangzhou.
But he failed to win his first two matches in charge of China and subsequently left, saying two roles at once was too much.
Guangzhou then surged to the top of the CSL, but their form has faded badly in the last two months and they are now just ahead of reigning champions Shanghai SIPG in the standings.
The two sides play each other next on November 23 and there are just two rounds of league matches to go after that.
Guangzhou bosses will use the four weeks before the top-of-the-table clash to find a replacement for the Italian, local media said.
Chinese football fans have never been convinced by Cannavaro, who took over at Guangzhou for a second spell in November 2017 from Luiz Felipe Scolari.
In his first season back at the club, the team from southern China failed to make it eight domestic league titles on the spin.
Cannavaro has also managed Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia and Tianjin Quanjian, also in China.