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Evergrande update: Cléo departs for Japan

Guangzhou Evergrande chairman Liu Yongzhuo this week declared the club’s planning for the 2013 season “basically complete”, as Brazilian striker Cléo departed for J-League side Kashiwa Reysol on a year long loan deal.

Cléo, 27, became the club’s record signing when he joined in February 2011 for €3.2 million and made an instant impact, scoring 10 goals in 10 games in his first season at the club. With the arrival of Paraguayan Lucas Barrios in the summer of 2012, though, the former Partizan Belgrade forward has fallen out of coach Marcello Lippi’s first-team plans.

A useful squad member, Cléo becomes the third casualty of the CSL’s decision to reverse their expansion on the permitted number of foreign players. Evergrande had been permitted seven non-Chinese players in 2012, but that number has been reduced to five for the new season.

With the arrival of Brazilian forward Elkeson, the club has been forced to move Paulão, Cho Won-hee and Cléo out of the doors this winter. With their wages prohibitive to a permanent move, Paulão and Cléo have both left the club on a year-long loan. Cho Won-Hee, meanwhile, has joined recently promoted Wuhan Zall on a full-time basis.

Brazilian forward Renato Cajá, who has spent the past 18-months on-loan at Ponte Preta and Kashima Antlers, has also now left the club, joining Brasileirão side Vítoria for the 2013 season.

Notable absentees from Spain training camp

Guangzhou Evergrande have headed for Spain this last week for a training camp ahead of the 2013 season. Over the next ten days, they will face Romanian clubs Rapid Bucharest and Concordia Chiajna, Czech Republic side Sparta Prague and Russian Premier League side Krasnodar in a series of friendly encounters as preparation for the Asian Champions League.

They will confront their European opponents, though, without many of their first-team squad. A massive 11 of Marcello Lippi’s side are currently on a training camp with the Chinese national side, while four young Cantonese players have been left behind to prepare for the season in Guangzhou.

Guangzhou-born 23-year-old forward Wei Yechao has been left behind to recover fitness, after a knee injury saw him fall out of first-team contention in 2012, in the hope that he will play a bigger role this season. Evergrande are determined to retain the player, despite interest from Shenzhen Ruby, and hope to see him reach his full potential at the club.

Another former first-team regular under former manager Lee Jang-Soo, 21-year-old Gao Zhilin, had been expected to join Meixian Hakka. However, with the recent exits of senior squad members Wu Pingfeng and Jiang Ning, the club have resolved to retain the youngster, as Lippi looks to add both pace and width to his first-team this season.

Reserve top-scorer in 2011, 20-year-old midfielder Tan Jiajun and recent attacking signing from nearby Dongguan Nancheng, 19-year-old Hu Weiwei also miss out on the trip due to China Under-22 commitments.

Loan exits: Local clubs benefit

With Evergrande’s squad closing on 40-players, the club have also sought to find first-team opportunities for several of their fringe players in the second and third tier of the Chinese system.

Reserve team midfielder Peng Shaoxiong, 23, as well as defenders Tu Dongxu, 21, and Zhang Yujia, 21, will all join Meizhou Hakka in the Chinese Second Division on a year-long loan. The trio will hope to impress and seek suitors from a higher level next season, with none expected to challenge for a first-team role at Evergrande.

The club recently invested in six youngsters from the recently disbanded Dongguan Nancheng side and, with the Second Division side now reforming in Meixian, three of those bought will return to their former side on-loan. 19-year-old trio Zhang Xingbo, Wang Rui and Li Weixin will all move to the new side, with the hope of returning to play a role at Evergrande in 2014.

To complete the club’s recent streamlining of the first-team squad, 21-year-old goalkeeper Dong Chunyu will head to Shenyang Shenbei in the Chinese First Division. A Shenyang native, Evergrande hope that Dong will gain vital first-team experience at his hometown club.

Based in Guangzhou, Christopher covers Chinese football for a range of media outlets worldwide and is Wild East Football's lead editor for news content.   His work can regularly be seen on ESPN FC, Bleacher Report and Hupu amongst other media outlets, while he has interviewed a number of leading figures in Chinese football.



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