With Guangzhou Evergrande crowned champions of the Chinese Super League 2012, takes a look at the latest news surrounding the club as preparations commence in earnest for next season’s second-attempt at continental glory.
Foreign Players – A mass exodus and two big names from Europe
It has been widely accepted for some time that Korean utility player Cho Won-Hee and Brazilian centre-back Paulão will leave the club this winter, but recent developments could see a cleaning out of the club’s foreign players. An “uprising” has taken place amongst the club’s South American stars, who have stated recently an intent to leave for various reasons. Centre-forward Cléo would like to return to Partizan Belgrade after losing his place in the side to Lucas Barrios, while Barrios himself has failed to settle at the club and has desires of a move to former side Colo Colo. Besides the striking duo, reports in Brazil have also suggested that Dario Conca and Muriqui have also decided their time in China is coming to an end and would both like return to the country – however Evergrande are not willing to sell the players cheaply. Coach Marcello Lippi has reportedly become annoyed by the South American players’ attitude and is willing to see them all depart, but there is no guarantee that any of the player’s asking prices will be met. The club are asking for $10 million in order to sell Conca, whilst sources at the club believe Muriqui is likely to stay and insist he was merely being courteous to the media on a trip home.
All this drama leaves Kim Young-Gwon as the club’s only definite remaining foreign player for next season, with high-profile European recruits reportedly targeted by Lippi to replace the South American contingent. Talk in local media is that two players are close to confirming deals, with Sampdoria’s 31-year-old combative midfielder Angelo Palombo a name commonly linked. The Italian fits with Lippi’s known preference for strength in midfield, with a view to playing wingers and powerful strikers – part of the reason why the manager is content to see the likes of Conca, Barrios and Muriqui depart if a buyer can be found. With Conca’s contract expiring in December 2013, his departure could make sound economic sense for the club – even if Muriqui and Barrios’ asking price will likely be too high for any suitors.
As a footnote, there is also some confusion still over the number of foreign players that will be allowed next season, but it seems likely that the club will see their temporary quota of 7 returned to the previous limit of 5. That in itself is far from certain, though, with Evergrande supported in their demands for extra places by fellow Champions League qualifiers Jiangsu Sainty and Beijing Guoan.
Domestic Arrivals – Four internationals close, seven youngsters signed
The club’s objectives when it comes to domestic transfers have been made very clear – they want only players aged Under-25, with 26 as the club’s self-imposed limit. The club’s owners are hoping to plan for the next few seasons and, as ever, secure some of China’s leading names. Evergrande have already moved quickly to sign seven players from the recently disbanded Dongguan Nancheng side, with the arrivals confirmed to include several China youth team (U19) players such as goalkeeper Fang Jingqi and striker Yang Chaosheng. The recruits are all aged 19 or younger and come recommended by Lippi’s trusted chief scout Franco Ceravolo. Guangzhou Daily report that four of these players will enter the senior training set-up (first-team and reserves), meaning the club will have used all of its U21 transfer allowance (3 permitted) and one of its senior domestic transfer quota for the next window (5 permitted).
Beyond those players, the club are also reportedly negotiating deals for five prominent China internationals: Liaoning pair of striker Yang Xu (pictured with Evergrande’s Gao Lin) and wide midfielder Yu Hanchao, Shenhua duo of versatile midfielder Wu Xi and winger Feng Renliang, as well as Qingdao Jonoon’s left-wing Zheng Long. Of the five, it would appear that Feng Renliang is the only deal close to completion at present, with reports on the other targets varying wildly. Talk of Yu Hanchao’s arrival has cooled off dramatically in recent days, with Feng Renliang and Zheng Long more likely signings to strengthen the wide positions – Yu is reported to be also sought after by Dalian Aerbin. The potential signings give further indication that Lippi has set his mind on strengthening the flanks and will play with natural wide players next campaign, as is his known preference.
National Team & FA Cup – Seven Evergrande players called-up
Guangzhou Evergrande once more supply the most players to Jose Camacho’s China squad, with no less than seven players selected in the 24 man party. Sun Xiang, Zheng Zhi, Feng Xiaoting, Zhang Linpeng, Qin Sheng, Zhao Xuri and Gao Lin will all report for action on November 11, immediately after the Chinese FA Cup final first-leg. The squad will play friendly fixtures with New Zealand on November 14 and Hong Kong on November 20. With the side’s two-legged Cup final against Guizhou Renhe set for 11 and 18 November, the Cantonese side are understandably concerned about a large chunk of their side travelling for international duty over the same period. Friday’s (2 November) Guangzhou Daily offers some good news, though, reporting that both Muriqui and Lucas Barrios will be fit for the encounters, which are to be officiated by referees from South Korea and Australia.