SINGAPORE (AFP) - Former world player of the year Fabio Cannavaro faces a tough start to his managerial career when he leads 2013 winners Guangzhou Evergrande into the AFC Champions League this week.
Glittering honours as a player do not guarantee success in the dug-out and the World Cup winner, 41, is taking the plunge at a club where expectations are sky-high.
Four Chinese titles in a row, plus China's first Champions League win, add up to a tough act to follow as he takes over from his former Italy boss Marcello Lippi.
However, Lippi remains involved as director of football and will be well placed to closely mentor Cannavaro, his captain when Italy won the 2006 World Cup.
Guangzhou lost last month's Super Cup final to Shandong Luneng in Cannavaro's first game in charge but his career starts in earnest against FC Seoul on Wednesday.
The South Korean club thrashed Hanoi T&T 7-0 in the play-offs and will be eyeing revenge for the 2013 final, when they missed out to well-heeled Guangzhou.
The southern club has been on another spending spree in the close season, snapping up Brazilian player of the year Ricardo Goulart.
Guangzhou, part-owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba, also signed Red Bull Salzburg's Brazilian striker Alan as they continue their policy of blending South American flair with a core of Chinese players.
The "Manchester United of Asia" became China's first Champions League winners in 2013 but were shocked in last year's quarter-finals by eventual victors Western Sydney Wanderers.
But Guangzhou have an early chance for revenge with the defending champions, currently rock-bottom of the A-League with one win from 16, also in Group H.