|By GOAL AUSTRALIA
His Central Coast team may have eventually gone down to Guangzhou Evergrande in their Round of 16 home leg on Wednesday, but the Mariners' battling performance against their mega-rich opponents would have only seen the stocks of coach Graham Arnold rise further.
The Mariners' AFC Champions League group-stage heroics added further credence to Arnold's reputation in Asia, which stems largely from a bright spell at then-J-League club Sanfrecce Hiroshima at the end of the ex-striker's playing career.
There have been rumours of interest in 49-year-old Arnold from the likes of Scotland and Japan since he took over the Mariners in 2010, but more recent reports have linked the one-time Australia caretaker coach with a shift to China.
With that in mind, Goal Australia has enlisted Chinese football expert Peter Davis to speculate on who could be keeping an eye on Arnold and why he might be a good fit.
Perhaps the most likely Chinese club is Guangzhou R&F, who Chinese media linked Arnold to in early April. The club is badly underperforming with just two wins in the 2013 Chinese Super League season and coach Sergio Farias is said to be on borrowed time, despite a recent 2-1 win over Beijing Guoan. Arnold may fit well with Evergrande's neighbors and can count on former Mariner Rostyn Griffiths to show him the ropes. He would also have ex-Portsmouth, Everton and Middlesbrough striker Yakubu on his books.
Arnold jokingly linked himself to Guizhou Renhe ahead of their AFC Champions League group tie, praising their facilities and quality of their squad. Renhe saw off the Mariners 2-1 in China in the clubs first ACL campaign and count Chinese legend Sun Jihai and Bundesliga winner Zvjezdan Misimovic [pictured left] in their ranks. Gong Lei - technically still in caretaker mode after the resignation of Gao Hongbo - has been manager since January.
Another option could be the Blue Hawks, who are currently managed in a caretaker role by club chairman Li Ming. Aerbin are without a permanent manager since Xu Hong was given a five-year ban after being found guilty of corruption in February. Some great footballing names have been linked to the role, including Robert Prosinecki and Hristo Stoitchkov. The prospect of managing Aerbin's excellent squad, which includes ex-Barcelona men Seydou Keita and Fabio Rochemback, would be appealing.
|CHINESE LEAGUE ONE
Do not count out lower-league management, however unlikely it may sound. Former Morocco, Japan, South Africa and Nigeria coach Philippe Troussier [pictured left] manages Chinese League One club Shenzhen Ruby and in recent years ambitious sides have emerged from the second tier, including Evergrande and Dalian Aerbin. The latest crop of contenders with designs on the CSL include Guangdong Sunray Cave and Brendon Santalab's Chongqing Lifan. League rivals Beijing Baxy are funded by an ice-cream company and enticed Ryan Griffiths to return to China from the Newcastle Jets.