Ex-Wales boss Coleman takes reins at Hebei China Fortune

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Former Sunderland and Wales coach Chris Coleman has been appointed as the new manager of Chinese club Hebei China Fortune.

Former Sunderland and Wales coach Chris Coleman is the new manager of Chinese Super League soccer team Hebei China Fortune, the club announced in a statement.

Coleman, who led the Welsh national team to the semifinal of the European Championship in 2016, takes the reins from Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini, who left Hebei in May to join Premier League side West Ham.

The 48-year-old parted company with Wales in 2017 after they failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and took charge of Sunderland in the English Football League's second tier competition, the Championship.

Having inherited a struggling side, he could not save Sunderland from relegation to League One, and was sacked at the end of the season in April on the same day new owners took over the club.

Hebei is currently 10th in the 16-team Chinese top flight after 11 games. Coleman's first match in charge will be on July 18 when the Chinese Super League resumes after its midseason break.

"We welcome Mr Coleman's arrival and expect him to bring new ideas to the team and help the team reach its target for this season," the club said in a statement.

The Hebei squad boasts several China internationals including Zhang Chengdong and Jiang Zhipeng as well as four foreign stars: Javier Mascherano and Ezequiel Lavezzi of Argentina; former Arsenal striker Gervinho of Cote d'Ivoire; and Brazil midfielder Hernanes. Mascherano is a former Liverpool and Barcelona player and is part of Argentina's FIFA World Cup 2018 squad.

The club achieved its highest-ever finish in the Chinese top flight last season when Pellegrini guided it to fourth place, narrowly missing out on qualification for the Asian Champions League.

Coleman's appointment has received a mixed reaction from Chinese soccer fans and pundits. One social media user labelled him a "relegation specialist", while others cited his relative youth and international success as positives.

Several Chinese soccer journalists have speculated if Coleman's move to China is chiefly motivated by money, after English media reported that he will earn 3.5 million pounds ($4.7 million) a year at Hebei - five times the annual salary he is thought to have earned at Sunderland.

"The appointment of Chris Coleman is something of a surprise, especially as he has recently presided over the relegation of Sunderland," said Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports enterprise at Salford University.

"In many ways, the appointment makes a lot of sense. For Hebei, this is the chance to work with a coach who has recently been coaching international stars, such as (Real Madrid's) Gareth Bale," he added.

"With Coleman in charge, Wales played very well during Euro 2016. Hence, this is a shrewd, potentially constructive move by Hebei which, if Coleman can re-establish himself at club level, could form the basis for a highly productive partnership."

Coleman, a defender, played for Swansea City, Crystal Palace, Blackburn Rovers and Fulham, as well as winning 32 caps for Wales, before he was forced to retire at the age of 32 after breaking his leg in a car crash.

At the age of 33 he became the youngest ever Premier League manager when he took over at Fulham in 2003, and remained as manager for three years until he was sacked.

He then joined Spanish side Real Sociedad, before stints as manager at Coventry City in the English Football League Championship and Greek side AEL.

Coleman's greatest managerial success came with Wales. The team was ranked 117th in the FIFA rankings when he took over in 2012, and by 2015 he had steered them to their highest-ever position of eighth, with a squad including Bale and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey.

He took the team to the 2016 European Championship, their first major tournament since 1958, where Wales topped its group and reached the semifinal of the competition, before losing to eventual champions Portugal.

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