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Beginning of the end for Evergrande’s domination ? Greenland make Shenhua promise

Shanghai Shenhua can look forward to returning to the top of Chinese football within three years of Greenland group taking over, the real estate giant’s chairman said in a TV news interview.

Although there has been no announcement yet of any changes to the ownership structure at Shenhua, Zhang’s remarks are the clearest indication yet that talks are well underway, with the word on the Shanghai street that Greenland will make an official announcement before Chinese New Year, which is next Friday.

Indeed, all the signs do indeed point to Zhu Jun preparing to sell up. Not only does he appear to have asset-stripped Shenhua of its best playing staff, the club also handed in its registration documents for the 2014 CSL season – with several key details missing, including the identity of the club’s CEO.

Chairman Zhang Yuliang  said “Greenland Group would be duty bound to make Shenhua become a team that is in keeping with Shanghai’s standing as an influential global city. Fan Zhiyi said we would need 5 years to turn Shenhua around – but I don’t see it that way – we can deliver a beautiful report card within 3 years.”

Shenhua fans could be forgiven for thinking they had heard it all before, following the Zhu Jun-sponsored Drogba and Anelka episode which ended in farce. However, Greenland, unlike Zhu Jun, is a serious player.

The enterprise outstrips Evergrande as China’s biggest group centered on real estate,  and is even ranked on Fortune’s Global 500 list, coming in at 483rd. These are very serious credentials indeed and it is very clear that group has the financial muscle to at the very least compete on the same playing field as Evergrande.

Zhang Yuliang’s statement suggests this is what Greenland have in mind – and indeed, in Shanghai, nothing less than this will be expected from both the general public and the city government.

With top Chinese clubs Beijing Guoan and Shandong Luneng unwilling or unable to invest the same kind of resources as Evergrande have, Greenland’s clear and open statement could be a small but significant first step towards ending Evergrande’s domination of the Chinese domestic game over the past few seasons.

As far as Shenhua are concerned however, there is a long way to go before the club can even think about returning to its glory days. Aside from the small matter of the word “threadbare” no longer being an appropriate adjective to describe the Shenhua’s decimated squad, and the team’s subsequent chances of retaining their CSL status this season, there remains a lot of mopping up to do, as any new owners of the club who would inherit a real mess.

The club was this week ordered to pay city rivals Shanghai East Asia a transfer fee of around 750,000 euro for Bai Jiajun and Zhan Yilin, having yet to do so since the pair join Shenhua one year ago. The club is also appealing to FIFA to reduce the 12 million euro compensation it was ordered to pay Didier Drogba for breaking his contract.

Shanghai media say these debts are complicating an already very tricky buyout of the club by Greenland. The real estate giant intends to buy a 100% share, eliminating the Zhu Jun – government-owned company shareholder dispute, but prices for the deal quoted in the media vary wildly and the final result may be that Greenland simply acquire Zhu Jun’s share for the time being.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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