Honduran striker Saul Martinez, hero of Shanghai Shenhua’s 2003 championship-winning side, has made a surprise return to his old club and should feature in tonight’s clash against Wuhan at Yuanshen Stadium.
The 31-year-old was something of a crowd favourite during his last spell with the club and from 2002-2005 scored a healthy 36 goals in 86 appearances before leaving for J-League side Omiya Ardija, bemoaning the state of Chinese football as one of his reasons for going. Things didn’t work out for him in Japan though and he found himself back in China last season playing for Shenhua’s rivals Shanghai United before heading back to Honduras.
Martinez joins the club’s Uruguayan trio – striker Sergio Blanco and former Atletico Madrid teammates Fernando Correa and Diego Alonso – to become to fourth foreigner on the club’s books.
Meanwhile, Shanghaiist’s Blue Devil contacts tell us a “fools surprise” has been planned at today’s match for controversial owner Zhu Jun, the man behind the merger of Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai United. The newly-merged side has only won once this season, and suffered its latest poor result in the shape of a 1-0 defeat to Indonesian side Persik Kediri in the AFC Champions League.
The Blue Devils believe April Fools day to be a fitting occasion to vent their frustration at the man they blame for Shenhua’s poor start to the season. Exactly what is up the fans’ sleeves your correspondent can only guess, but we are sure it will be suitably amusing.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015