Jordi Cruyff was hailed a hero when he joined Chongqing Lifan last season and managed to drag them clear of the Chinese Super League drop zone, claiming 15 points from the final nine games.
But, as they say, that was then and this is now. And the now sees them with one draw and one defeat from their opening two games of the new season.
The challenge remains to avoid relegation but moreover an impact at the right end of the standings has surely got to be Cruyff’s task. It’s a goal he will need to achieve at the same time as overcoming the language barrier. And Cruyff, who enjoyed a fantastic playing career representing both Manchester United and Barcelona, said: “Almost nobody speaks English, so it is really tough. You work with four translators so you need short, clear messages. If it is going to be complicated, you need to bring visual aids so the players can see what you are trying to explain to them, not only hear.
“In Europe, you can shout at each other on the pitch or correct each other in a tough way. China has a more respectful culture. If there are things they are not really used to doing, don’t expect it from them. You need to try and organise your team in such a way that you can avoid having to talk too much or make players think about what you have said. Give them a task and that is it.”
Dutchman Cruyff, who was capped by Holland on nine occasions (his famous father earned 48 international call-ups), finds himself managing in a league that boasts more than 20 Brazilian players. Current champions Shanghai SIPG have three Samba aces in the shape of strikers Hulk, Elkeson and Oscar and their contribution was a telling one last term as between them they snatched 32 goals and made 34 assists.
Then there is Guangzhou Evergrande, bossed by Fabio Cannavaro, who are driven in midfield by powerful Brazilians Paulinho and Anderson Talisca; the latter bagging 16 goals in his 18 league appearances, while the former scored 13 in 19 league outings.
Meanwhile, another new recruit to the Chinese Super League of late has been Reading goal-getter Sone Aluko, who has moved to Beijing Renhe on loan from the Championship outfit for the remainder of this year. Aluko, who is aged 30, nabbed just one goal in 20 games for the Royals this season, having made 60 appearances since his £7.5million switch from Fulham two years ago.
Beijing Renhe, who finished eighth in the league standings last season, were perhaps hoping for a more of an impact from the addition of Aluko but that has certainly not been the case having started the campaign with two defeats from two games. They lost 1-0 at Wuhan Zall at the East West Lake Distrct Sports Center before 21,920 last time of asking. And before that, in their opening encounter against Shandong Luneng, they also lost 1-0 in front of 20,107 fans at the Jinan Olympic Sports Center.