Erratic Shanghai Shenhua owner Zhu Jun appeared to be executing a scorched earth policy on his club today, with the sale of a third key domestic player, Song Boxuan, to Beijing Guoan for 2.4 million Euro.
Speculation in Shanghai is currently at an all-time high that the video game mogul is planning to relinquish his 28.% stake in the club and is asset-stripping ahead of his imminent departure. The controversial sale of Song Boxuan – one of Shenhua’s best players last season – follows hot on the heels of the even more contentious departure of star goalkeeper, “team soul” and seven-year servant of Shenhua, Wang Dalei to Shandong, along with another first-team regular, defender Dai Lin.
Song signed a 3 year contract with Beijing Guoan, who is now flying to the Middle East to meet his new teammates in Dubai were the club are conducting pre-season activities.
For the past week, the Shanghai rumour-mill had been spinning furiously on the on-going Shenhua boardroom power-struggle, with long-vaunted real estate company Greenland group said to be on the verge of a takeover. Whilst rumours initially were confined to word-of-mouth and weibo, in the last two days stories have appeared in the mainstream media quoting “persons familiar with the matter” saying Zhu Jun was in formal negotiations to sell his stake in the club for 48million Euro, and that an official announcement is imminent.
However, Zhu’s departure would be of scant comfort to Shenhua fans as it is too late to sign anything resembling adequate replacements for those who have left. The Hongkou club’s fans have watched in horror and disgust as the owner has continually sold off the club’s best players. Of last year’s squad numbers 1-11, only number 10 Giovanni Moreno and 11 Firas Al-khatib remain at the club. Numbers 3 and 6 were unoccupied last season, but that still represents an incredible turnover even by the infamous Hongkou revolving door’s standards.
Of first-team regulars from last season, in addition to the aforementioned Moreno and Al-khatib, only leftback Bai Jiajun and veteran midfielder Xu Liang remain. In terms of other squad members who featured in more than a handful of games last year, once-promising midfielder Cao Yunding had a poor season and spent most of it on the bench. Whilst aging smoker Jiang Kun was given a 1/10 performance rating by ‘s Shenhua correspondents last season.
The remainder of the squad are either unknowns or overlooked in favour of first teamers being played out of position.
Comment online from Shenhua fans made it clear most were resigned to Zhu Jun’s scorched earth policy and few were motivated to abuse or criticize the owner to anywhere near the same level as he was over Wang Dalei’s departure.
Shenhua’s only signing worthy of inspiring optimism is that of Cho Byung-kuk from J-League side Jubilo Iwata, who becomes the club’s first-ever Korean. But with transfer quota rules meaning Shenhua can only bring in two more foreigners and two more domestic players, even if Greenland do take over the club, there is limited scope for boosting the decimated squad before the new season begins in March.