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Samba in Shandong – an awkward dance beckons?

During transfer windows headlines are usually made by marquee signings. In the Chinese Super League that usually means a big name coming over from Europe. This is not always just players though, it can also include managers. Famous names like Marcello Lippi, who this past year won the AFC Champions League with Guangzhou Evergrande, and Sven Goran Eriksson now ply their trade in China. This January Brazilian manager Alexi Stival, or Cuca, made the jump to China to take charge of Shandong Luneng.

Cuca prefers a fluid attacking football style that in theory should fit well with Shandong striker Vagner Love, and may at a later stage look to bring more of his fellow country men into the Jinan based club’s squad.

The seasoned coach has been in charge of many clubs in Brazil. In fact most that one could think of. However his fame comes from last year’s Copa Libertadores where he led Atletico Mineiro to their first major title in over 40 years.

He revitalized Ronaldinho’s career and got the best out of former Manchester City striker Jo, who had not scored more than 10 goals in a season since 2007 with CSKA Moscow. In 2013 he had 18 in all competitions.

Evergrande fans should be familiar with Cuca’s managing style. His Atletico Mineiro side met Guangzhou in this year’s World Club Cup. In a heated affair his side were the eventual winners getting third place in the competition.

Shandong fans should get excited at the prospect of attractive football that could bring home the silverware, and indeed expectations are high especially after the ambitious club splashed out record amounts bringing international keeper Wang Dalei from Shanghai Shenhua and his defensive team-mate Dai Lin.  Brazilian anchorman Júnior Urso also joined from Coritiba, he will be a crucial player for Cuca this year, as he replaces long-serving Lebanese star Roda Antar who was the heart of Luneng’s midfield  over the past few years.

However following their struggle during the week in their ACL opener against Thai side Buriram United , a tepid 1-1 draw which saw Shandong surrender three points in the last minute of the game, a lot of pressure beckons for Cuca as he starts learning the Jinan Jive after mastering the Brazilian Samba.

Adem has lived in China a few years spending most of them in Beijing. The capital provides all the football one could ask for. Adem’s knowledge of Chinese cursing and geography were all learnt through watching matches.

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