Marcello Lippi was hired to take Guangzhou Evergrande to the next level - but he's fighting to salvage the Chinese club's season after a heartbreaking exit from the Asian Champions League.
The World Cup and UEFA Champions League-winning coach, 64, has seen it all, but even he was moved to reflect on football's capricious nature after a late strike knocked Guangzhou out of the quarter-finals.
"Football can be very cruel at times and unfair," a downcast Lippi said.
"We have worked all year to become better and to reach our objectives and we came to the ACL with one objective.
"But I believe we should have passed this round. We played well and had plenty of chances to score."
The Chinese champion lost the first leg against Al Ittihad 4-2 in Jeddah but it looked as if it was through on the away goals rule when ex-Borussia Dortmund striker Lucas Barrios and Dario Conca put it 2-0 up in the first half.
But Fahad Al Muwallad's deflected shot on 78 minutes put the two-time winner from Saudi Arabia into the semi-finals at the expense of Lippi's team, which was making its tournament debut.
The defeat compounds Lippi's difficulties after Guangzhou, which coasted to the Chinese Super League title last year, slipped off the top spot - the position it occupied when he arrived in May.
With just four games left this season, the Italian is targeting a league and cup double to placate his wealthy paymasters at Guangzhou, who showed a ruthless side when they dispatched Lippi's successful predecessor Lee Jang-Soo.
"Now we have two more objectives to go for and that's the Chinese Super League and Chinese FA Cup, and we will put in all our efforts to reach those objectives," said the former Juventus boss.
Guangzhou has splashed out on foreign signings including midfielder Conca - reportedly one of the world's best-paid players - and Paraguay striker Barrios, and had put a premium on securing Asian glory.
The club also won a rule-change by the Chinese Football Association allowing it to have more foreign players on its roster, boosting its chances in the continental club competition.
China has been waiting 22 years for an Asian club title since Liaoning's triumph in 1990, and Guangzhou was the first to reach the ACL quarter-finals in six years.
Chinese football has been rocked by major corruption scandals in recent years but big investment, including Shanghai Shenhua's signings of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, is intended to revamp its image and standards.
However China remains an unpredictable arena as seen when Shenhua sacked coach Jean Tigana after just a handful of games in April, and reportedly threatened to withhold Drogba and Anelka's pay in a boardroom dispute.
Lippi will lead Guangzhou into the two-legged Chinese FA Cup final next month.
Its battle to dislodge Jiangsu Sainty, Super League leader on goal difference, begins this weekend at home against Shandong Luneng.
AFC Champions League
Central Coast Mariners will have to do what it has failed to do in its ACL campaign to date to reach the quarter-finals - score at least two goals in a match.