AVB to go rallying after parting ways with SIPG
Andre Villas-Boas will no longer be Shanghai SIPG’s manager, the club announced on Thursday evening. Instead, after failing to win a championship in the 2017 season — a minimal requirement from club bosses — the Portuguese will take part in an endurance race next year, the Dakar Rally.
“The 2017 season is over. Shanghai SIPG and its players achieved success and improvement, but there are also regrets,” said the club’s statement. “We announce that the club and Mr Villas-Boas will head in different directions. We thank Mr Villas-Boas and his coaching team for their contribution to the club in the 2017 season.”
The statement said AVB also expressed his gratitude to the club and players, as well as SIPG fans who, he said, had made him and his family welcome in Shanghai.
Villas-Boas had said after the first leg of the Chinese FA Cup final against local rival Shanghai Greenland Shenhua that a decision on his future with SIPG had already been made but the time was not right to reveal it. SIPG eventually lost the two-legged CFA Cup final on away goal, ending the 2017 season empty-handed.
After failing to complete the task of clinching at least one championship from the three battle fields of the Chinese Super League, CFA Cup and the AFC Champions League, which was assigned to him at the beginning of the season, the former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager said he took responsibility for the disappointing result.
Meanwhile, Dakar Rally organizers confirmed this week that Villas-Boas, a motor sports fan, will compete in the endurance race in January. The London-based Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday that the 40-year-old Portuguese had turned down a one-year extension offer by SIPG, and wanted to take a rest from football for a while.
Rally organizers said that Villas-Boas, whose uncle Pedro entered the event in 1982 when it was held in Africa rather than South America, will drive a Toyota Hilux with compatriot Ruben Faria.
Faria finished runner-up in the motorcycle category in 2013.
The Dakar starts in the Peruvian capital Lima on January 6 and ends in Cordoba, Argentina, on January 20 after passing through Bolivia.
The official Dakar website said the Portuguese had initially contemplated entering the 40th edition of the Dakar on a motorbike to celebrate turning 40 but was "brought to his senses".
"I spoke with my friend Alex Doringer, the manager of the KTM team, who told me that I would still need a full year's preparation to get there and that it was better to consider doing it with a car," he said.
The website reported that Villas-Boas was an enthusiastic dirt biker as a teenager in Oporto and competed regularly in the Portuguese off-road championships.
He is not the first celebrity to take part, however. French rocker Johnny Hallyday raced in 2002. Prince Albert of Monaco competed twice and his sister Princess Caroline once.
Some local media reported that former Guangzhou Evergrande manager and World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is among the hottest candidates to take over.
Villas-Boas joined SIPG in November 2016, replacing Sven-Goran Eriksson. SIPG had a promising season in 2017 with a runner-up finish in the CSL, which also advanced to the semifinals of the AFC Champions League. Villas-Boas also activated the performance of Brazilian striker Hulk, who became the team’s top scorer.
However, Villas-Boas had not been in a good relation with the Chinese Football Association. Back in January, he criticized the CFA’s restrictions on foreign players just weeks before the start of the season. During the season, he received three punishment notices from the CFA for improper comments or gestures, and was banned for a total of 12 matches — the most for any CSL managers.
One of the punishments was received after Villas-Boas questioned an eight-match suspension handed by the CFA to SIPG’s Oscar. Oscar was banned for eight matches for kicking the ball towards Guangzhou R&F players in a CSL match in June.