Runner up in the 2013 Chinese Super League, Shandong Luneng have filled their final foreign player allocation for the season ahead with the capture of defensive midfielder Junior Urso from Coritiba for around 15 million RMB (1.8 million Euro).
Urso, 24, joins at the behest of coach Cuca following a month of reported negotiations. Despite the length of the reported contact between the two parties, however, the news only broke when the player himself confirmed his impending departure on Valentine’s Day.
The arrival of Urso, who was considered one of the leading defensive midfielders of the 2013 Brasileirao, will be a major boost to Shandong’s hopes this season after concerns about the position were raised in recent days.
Jin Jingdao has operated as the deepest lying midfielder for the club throughout pre-season, but has found life difficult defensively with little support from captain Wang Yongpo—nominally the second central midfielder.
With Cuca also reported to harbour concerns regarding the club’s options at centre-back, where Ryan McGowan and Dai Lin have been left out for Du Wei and Li Songyi in recent friendly games, the signing takes on added importance.
While Urso can also operate as a box-to-box midfielder, he is best known for anchoring the midfield. Strong and very fast, he provides a valuable screen for his side’s defenders besides being comfortable in possession.
Later on Tuesday it will be revealed whether Cuca’s defensive doubts have been enough for Urso to be included as one of the 3+1 foreign players in Shandong’s AFC Champions League squad. Should he be included, it is suggested that countryman Aloisio would be the man to miss out despite recent goals in pre-season.
While the Jinan side are yet to show their true ability in friendly games, Luneng are considered among the favourites for CSL glory and a potential candidate for a place in the latter rounds of the Champions League.
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