DUBAI (Reuters) – Luiz Felipe Scolari’s arrival at Guangzhou Evergrande was akin to a saviour bringing water to a team abandoned in the desert, Chinese fullback Zhang Linping has said.
The 2002 World Cup-winning coach joined Guangzhou in June, replacing Italian Fabio Cannavaro, and led them to a fifth consecutive Chinese Super League title on Saturday.
The former Brazil, Portugal and Chelsea boss is now eyeing a double, with the first leg of the Asian Champions League final against Al-Ahli in Dubai on Saturday.
Marauding right-back Zhang, linked with a move to Chelsea earlier this season, said Scolari had returned the belief to a team that won Asia’s biggest club prize for the first time in 2013 under Italian World Cup winner Marcello Lippi.
“Scolari is a great coach. When he arrived it was like our team was in the middle of the desert and Scolari brought us all the water we needed,” Zhang told reporters in Dubai.
“There are some new players and new coaches, but there is one similarity that we are as eager to win this championship as we were two years ago.
“During the time Lippi was with the team he also taught me a lot and that you should always be eager for the victory and I maintain that spirit until now.”
Even if Guangzhou beat Al-Ahli and complete the double, Scolari will forever be remembered for being the Brazil coach that oversaw a humiliating 7-1 semi-final defeat by Germany at their home World Cup last year.
One of the Brazilians that played in the horror show was Paulinho. The midfielder, who was a second half substitute against the Germans, was one of Scolari’s first signings when he joined Guangzhou from English side Tottenham Hotspur.
The 27-year-old has been a driving force behind Guangzhou’s title triumph and run to the ACL final and he was quick to praise Scolari’s impact.
“I worked with Scolari with the national team. He gave me the opportunity to play at the World Cup and one week after he came to Guangzhou I signed my contract,” Paulinho said.
“I was confident because I could work with him again. He has given me the opportunity to play in two finals, the first one in winning the Chinese league and the second in the Champions League.
“I won’t forget about the semi-final in the World Cup as it is impossible to forget, but football is good as you lose one year and then the next year you get two more chances.”
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O’Brien)