The Shanghai International Port Group officially announced their takeover of Shanghai East Asia on Tuesday afternoon, in a wide-ranging press conference which brought with it a number of significant changes for the Xujiahui-based side.
First and foremost, as had been expected (and indeed, as is par for the course where Chinese football is concerned) the club’s title of Shanghai East Asia will henceforth officially cease to exist; with the Shanghai side now assuming the supercilious (if unsurprising) moniker SIPG FC. Whilst the name change may take some adjusting to, initial reactions from fans suggest that the retention of the club’s badge and colours are the more important details in maintaining it’s identity.
As part of the deal, SIPG have purchased East Asia’s senior, reserve and under-17 sides, whereas the Genbao Academy under-15 team will remain under the ownership of their former chairman, Xu Genbao, who himself has moved into the position of club advisor. In addition to this, SIPG announced they have acquired local youth side Shanghai Lucky Star’s under-17 and under-15 sides, with a first option to buy for all future players.
This could be a decisive move by SIPG, as combined with the admission of players from the Genbao base, it will ultimately supply the side with an influx of new blood from an even greater pool of individuals.
The announcements did not stop there, however, as the new owners also introduced the new manager to the media for the first time. As exclusively reported last month, former England manager, Sven Goran-Eriksson was officially unveiled as the new boss as Shanghai Stadium. The new number one led Guangzhou R&F into the Asian Champions League for the first time in their history last year – seeing off, amongst others, East Asia on their way to third place. Nonetheless, the lure of a two-year contract and a rumoured budget of £52m to spend on improving the squad, has convinced the ex-Roma, Lazio and Manchester City manager to head north to Shanghai.
Announcing the club’s ambitions, Eriksson announced; “It’s no secret that the target is to qualify for the ACL,” before adding “there will be some new foreigners and some new Chinese players, yes.” Although not disclosing the names of any potential additions, local media have reported that Guangzhou Evergrande and national team veteran, Sun Xiang, is on the verge of signing for the side. The Shanghai-born former Shenhua eft back will certainly be a welcome arrival, adding experience to a youthful squad, and improving the team’s options in their somewhat problematic full back positions.
Meanwhile, joining the Swede’s backroom staff in Shanghai are former contributor, Mads Davidsen, and current goalkeeping coach, Ian Walker.
Eriksson also emphasised the ability already within the side, stating; “This club has many outstanding young players and I’m looking forward to working with them.” While the first eleven for the most part picked itself in the year gone by, as your
East Asia SIPG correspondent mentioned last week, there are rather prominent question marks over a number of the first-team squad. Whereas fringe players such as Wang Jiajie and Wu Yuyin may be wondering where they will be plying their trade come next March, it is amongst the foreign playing staff where the grandest revisions will be made.
Of the most pressing concern to the new management will be Tobias Hysén’s desire to return to his boyhood club IFK Göteborg. However, with Sven at the helm, it remains to be seen whether or not the Swede can convince his compatriot to see out the final year of his contract.
Regardless, with such an embarrassment of riches promised to the new manager, it seems the Shanghai club could be well placed to finally upset the balance in power at the top end of the CSL, and challenge powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande for top spot both next season and in the years to come.