With just over two weeks left until the winter transfer window closes, the following is a comprehensive list of player movements involving last season’s top eight Super League teams and is accurate as of February 12th 2015. It is worth noting that new CFA rules have limited squads to just 25 domestic players in 2015 and so, in theory, there will be a greater number of Chinese footballers filtering down the leagues as the transfer window progresses.
In terms of number of players signed, the defending Super League champions’ winter transfer window has been about quality rather than quantity. However, in terms of cash, it has very much been about quantity as Jack Ma’s Taobao billions have been used to make a pair of Brazilians the most expensive signings in Chinese football history.
It cost Evergrande a record breaking 15 million Euros to bring attacking midfielder Ricardo Goulart to Tianhe, but the highly regarded Brazilian is reputed to be well worth money. Having won his first international cap back in August, many were expecting the 23-year-old to leave Cruzeirio for Europe, but Ma’s millions proved too much to resist,
Compatriot Alan was a snip by comparison, coming in at just 11 million Euros from Red Bull Salzburg. As his paltry price tag suggests, the 25-year-old striker is not quite as highlt regarded as Goulart, but his 92 goals in just 126 appearance for the Austrian team demonstrates that he’s no slouch either. With record breaking goalscorer Elkeson still at his disposal, rookie Head Coach Fabio Cannavaro undoubtedly has a terrifying array of attacking options available to him in 2015
On the domestic front, things have been a little less ostentatious with left sided defender and midfielder Zou Zheng ariving from Qingdao Jonoon for 10 million Yuan and a lot less hassle than when Liu Jian made the same move last year. Young, physically imposing defensive midfielder Zhang Jiaqi, who arrives from relegated Dalian Aerbin, is the only other acquisition. Having broken into the national team last year before a back injury ruled him out of the Asian Cup, the 23-year-old, who spent the entirity of his career in France before moving to Aerbin last year, is touted for a bright future.
To make way for Goulart and Alan, the Italian duo of Aleesandro Diamanti and Alberto Gilardino have both been shipped out to Fiorentina with options to buy should the period be successful. After arriving to much fanfare last season, neither player quite lived up to expectations and it is unsurprising that they have been let go.
In order to comply with the new squad regulations, several of the Chinese playing staff have already departed. Veteran former Shanghai Shenhua left-back Sun Xiang was allowed a free transfer back to the financial hub with SIPG and he will be joined on the east coast by Li Jianbin who returns to Shenhua after spending a season on loan there in 2013.
21-year-old Olympic international Yang Chaosheng returns to Liaoning Whowin for another year on loan after moving there for the second half of 2014, while pacy left-winger Shewket Yalqun goes back to his native province with a permanent move to League One’s Xinjiang Tianshan Leopard after spending a year on loan with Qingdao Hainiu in the same division.
The club’s all-time appearance record holder, Feng Junyan, has also been cut loose along with Zhao Peng and Qin Sheng. Zhao spent the second half of 2014 on loan to Changchun Yatai without ever getting on the field, while Qin’s days at Tianhe were numbered when he was farmed out to League Two’s Meizhou Kejia in 2014 after apparently falling out with Marcello Lippi early in the year.
Guo’an may have taken the title race to the wire last year, but they’re lagging someway behing their nearest rivals in terms of transfer activity this winter. The permanent capture of 2014 loanee Erton Fejzullahu has been the only foreign player action while Yu Dabao’s costly purchase from Dalian Aerbin is the marquee domestic signing.
25-year-old centre back Jin Pengxiang has followed Yu from the Liaoning coast for a fee of over 10 million Yuan and he will be joined in next season’s squad by Li Lei who arrives from Henan Jianye. At just 22, the left footer, who can play left back or in the midfield, is considered a decent prospect who would have started more regularly in Zhengzhou last year had he not been out injured for the second half of the season.
The final signing is that of Liaoning Whowin backup goalkeeper Shi Xiaotian who arrives on a year long loan to provide cover for stalwart Yang Zhi. With Yang unlikely to have recovered from injury by the time of next week’s Champions’ League playoff, there’s a good chance that the 24-year-old will make his debut sooner rather than later.
While Guo’an’s arrivals hall might not get pulses racing, their departures lounge is reassuringly sparse. Zhang Xizhe‘s historic move to Wolfsburg is obviously a huge loss, but otherwise none of Yu Yang, Bai Xiaolei, Zhang Sipeng or Mao Jianqing will be missed a great deal.
Yu fell out of favour in the second half of the season and was allowed to move to Guangzhou R&F, while long term reserve goalkeepers Bai and Zhang were shipped out to Harbin Yiteng and Jiangsu Sainty, respectively. Finally, the 28-year-old Mao moved to newly promoted Shijiazhuang Ever Bright after a season on loan with Qingdao Jonoon in League One.
Following the departure of Sven Goran Erikson and the arrival of new Romanian Head Coach Cosmin Contra, some upheaval at Yuexiushan was inevitable. Thankfully for R&F, the changes have been largely positive as they strengthen their depth in preparation for a possible first ever Champions’ League campaign.
The only foreign addition has been that of Spaniard Miguel Herrero who followed Contra from Getafe. The 26-year-old attacking midfielder was actually on loan at Getafe from Valencia when he moved for around 1 million Euros and it is clear that the new coach has enough confidence in the player, more commonly known as Michel, to ask him to accompany him on the trip from central Spain to south-east China.
Michel is not the only attacking midfielder brought into the team, with both Wang Song and Ye Chugui added to the squad at different ends of their career. The 31-year-old Wang moves to Guangzhou after a five year spell as Hangzhou Greentown‘s creative midfield lynchpin. Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Ye arrives from League Two’s Meixian Hakka after a season that saw him become the third tier’s top scorer with 10 goals.
On the defensive front, R&F have made three additions in the shape of centre backs Yu Yang and Jin Yangyang along with goalkeeper Liu Dianzuo. As already mentioned, Yu arrives after a difficult year in Beijing, while the 22-year-old Jin comes in on an upward swing having finally broken into the Dalian Aerbin first team to start the last nine games of the 2014 season. The Guangdong outfit’s willingness to pay 8 million Yuan for Jin’s services is indicative of the potential they see in him. Finally, the ever improving Liu arrives from Shanghai Shenxin for a fee close to 2.8 million Euros at the end of a season that saw the 24-year-old called up to the international squad for the first time.
Indeed, that Liu is likely to replace 2014 first choice Cheng Yuelei was confirmed when he started R&F’s 3-0 Champions’ League qualifying win over Warriors FC of Singapore. And he wasn’t the only debutant on show as both Michel and Wang Song also turned out to give a taste of how last year’s third placed side will look in 2015.
R&F’s main loss has been Brazilian playmaker Davi who followed Sven Goran Erikson to Shanghai SIPG after three years at Yuexiushan. The 30-year-old contributed fourteen goals and six assists last year and it will be hoped that Michel will be able to fill the hole left by the South American.
Xu Bo, who has spent his entire career at the club in its various guises, will start the 2015 season with Super League new boys Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, while midfielder Zhu Baojie, who failed to make himself a regular in the starting line-up, has been allowed to move to Guizhou Renhe just one season after arriving from Shanghai Shenxin.
Shandong may have underachieved in the Super League last year, but if there’s one thing they were not short of it was squad depth, and so it’s perhaps no surprise that they have only brought in one player so far this transfer window. The good news for Luneng fans is that said player is Brazilian striker Diego Tardelli who arrives in Jinan from Atletico Mineiro, with 5.5 million Euros going the other way.
As well as winning the 2013 Copa Libertadores alongisde the legendary Ronaldinho, the 29-year-old scored a brace for Brazil against Argentina as recently as October last year. Aside from already demonstrating an ability to score in Beijing, Shandong fans can find further cause for optimism in the fact that their new signing has already found the net in a competitive game against Guangzhou Evergrande when he struck after just two minutes in Atletico’s 3-2 third place playoff victory over the 2013 Asian Champions in the FIFA Club World Cup.
In order to make way for Tardelli’s arrival, the chrasmatic and erratic Vagner Love has left the club and joined Corinthians on a free transfer. Australian centre back and defensive midfielder Ryan McGowan was also allowed to leave despite appearing at the World Cup in Brazil and scoring the last minute CFA Cup Final winner that got Shandong into 2015’s Champions’ League. Despite his heroics, McGowan didn’t look entirely comfortable last year and may enjoy his return to Scotland where he spent most of his career before heading east and where he has immediatley slotted into the starting line-up of fourth-placed SPL side Dundee United.
In terms of domestic players, Lv Zheng is the highest profile departure as the 29-year-old attacker, who has spent his entire career with Luneng, moved to Shanghai Shenhua. He will be joined at Hongkou by goalkeeper Geng Xiaofeng who made a permanent move to the east coast after spending 2014 on loan there.
Lower down the ranks, 22-year-old Olympic team striker Chen Hao has wisey been sent to Shanghai Shenxin on a one year loan after failing to get on the field in 2014. Similarly, Wang Gang has made a permanent move to Portugal with regional outfit SG Sacavenense after making just one substitute Super League appearance last season. Finally, 24-year-old midfielder Ma Long has made a permanent move to League One side Qingdao Hainiu after spending 2014 there as a loanee. The Luneng academy product has never really broken into the first team and it makes sense that he would try to re-establish himself at a lower level.
Shanghai SIPG’s announcement that Sven Goran Erikson was their new manager was a signal of intent that has been more than backed up in their transfer manouverings so far. Nothing says “f— you Evergrande” like bringing back the Chinese Super League’s prodigal son Dario Conca who made his name in the Middle Kingdom as the “King of Tianhe” and the architect of three Super League and one AFC Champions’ League title wins. At 31, the midfielder has brought his metronomic talents back to the Super League just a year after his dream return to Fluminese. There can be various cynical assessments about the reasons for Conca’s return but, ultimately, it is important for two reasons. The first is that it announces SIPG’s arrival as a legitimate spending force in the Super League. The second is that it gives last year’s fifth place finisher’s an excellent player to help them go one step further and qualify for 2016’s AFC Champions’ League.
Former Guangzhou R&F playmaker Davi will be lining up alongside the Argentinian superstar in 2015 after following Sven from Yuexiushan. The Brazilian’s contribution to R&F’s successful Champions’ League qualification has already been highlighted above and his signing is another demonstration of SIPG’s willingness to stick it to their rivals.
South American playmakers are all well and good, but SIPG clearly needed to improve a shaky defense in order to ascend to the next level and they’ve clearly done that in the acquisition of Kim Ju-Young, Sun Xiang and Shi Ke, respectively. Kim is a South Korean international centre back bought from FC Seoul for around 2 million Euros and will join the SIPG squad fresh off of an Asian Cup campaign. Admittedly, the 26-year-old only started the first game before coming on just before extra-time in the losing final effort against Australia, but his membership of a defensive unit that conceded just two goals in six Asian Cup games (both in the final) gives some indication of his pedigree.
There’s a good chance that Kim’s partner in the centre of defence will be 22-year-old Olympic team captain Shi Ke who was bought from Hangzhou Greentown for over 2 million Euros. Shi started 23 games for the Zhejiang outfit last year, and had it not been for the Asian Games disrupting his season it probably would have been all 30. Shi is one of Chinese football’s bright young defensive prospects, and he may well be joined in the back four by left back Sun Xiang who could have made the same claim about twelve years ago. The 33-year-old, who still made 20 Super League starts for champions Guangzhou Evergrande last season, will add valuable experience to team which remains comparatively young.
SIPG had a small squad to begin with, so it’s no great shock that the only players let go so far come from their foreign contingent. Ransford Addo, Iban Cuadrado, Gary McBreen and Imad Khalili have all left the Shanghai Stadium, with 2014 topscorer Tobias Hysen the only foreign aid to maintain his place with the club.
Centre Back, Addo, was with the club down in League One and the Ghanian will return to that level with Wuhan Zall. At 37, McBreen remains in the same country but has moved to a different system after winding up with South China down in Hong Kong. Cuadrado and Khalili are yet to find alternative employment.
The folks down in Guiyang were faster than anyone else this season in bringing in their 2015 foreign players as the signings of Magnus Eriksson, Ricardo Santos and Park Ju-Sung were all confirmed in mid-December. The latter is a South Korean centre back who last played for his national team almost a decade ago and arrives from a Gyeongnam FC side that were relegated from the K-League Classic last season. Santos is a Braziian journeyman forward who spent several years bouncing around the Scandinavian leagues before finally hitting form with Atvidabergs of Sweden last year where he scored 19 goals in 30 games.
However, while Park and Santos may seem like the standard Super League fare of generic Korean centre back and moderately successful Brazilian forward, respectively, Eriksson could be a real find for Guizhou. At 24, the Swede was pretty much an ever present during two straight Swedish league titles wins for Malmo and led the Allsvenskan in assists in 2013. The creative midfielder has also gained UEFA Champions’ League experience with his former club and has a reputation for scoring the occassional worldie.
While Renhe were quick off the blocks picking up foreign players, their domestic signings have been less than impressive. Zhu Baojie‘s arrival from Guangzhou R&F may bolster the midfield a little, while little is known about centre back Tang Yuan who arrives from League Two neighbours Guizhou Zhicheng. Already 25, Tang can hardly be considered a young prospect, and has likely been drafted in to provide cover for the starting centre backs.
It would be remiss to start with anything but the release of Sun Jihai who had spent five years at Renhe; captaining them to an CFA Cup triumph in 2013, while still managing to make 23 league starts in 2014 at the age of 37.
The good news for Chinese football is that the irrepressable Sun has found a home at League One champions Chongqing Lifan for 2015 and so we’ll still have the opportunity to watch him shout, point and roll back the years for a few more months at least. Another centre back that won’t be with Renhe next season is Wan Houliang who has been released after spending his entire career with the club and is yet to be picked up by a new team.
Two other Chinese players to bid farewell to Guiyang are Li Chunyu and Chen Zijie who have been transferred out to Shijiazhuang Ever Bright and Hunan Billows, respectively. Li is a diverse midfielder who actually started 17 times for Renhe last season, while Chen is that rarest of breeds – a Chinese striker. Both players were allowed to leave on free transfers and it is perhaps symptomatic of Chinese football’s lack of striking talent that Chen, who does also play on the wing, should be banished to the lower leagues after scoring just twice in 23 2014 Super League appearances.
An aged foreign trio also bid farewell to Guiyang. Bosnian playmaker Zvjezdan Misimovic, who appeared in the 2014 World Cup, sought a return to Germany but is yet to find a club, while German striker Mike Hanke gave up football altogether after a miserable half season in Guizhou that saw him score just one goal in 12 games. However, Australian-Ivorian Jonas Salley is still going strong and will begin a seventh season in China when he turns out for newly promoted (and located) League One outfit Inner Monglia Zhonyou in 2015
This is very easy for last year’s seventh placed side – Lucas Fonseca and Sang Yifei. Fonseca is a 29-year-old centre back who has been imported from Bahia without a great deal of fanfare, while 25-year-old midfielder Sang failed to establish himself with League One Wuhan Zall last season which makes it hard to see how he will be able to contribute to the Super League in 2015.
A quartet of foreign players are TEDA’s primary departures as Bare, Carmelo Valencia, Eder Lima and Mohammed Ali Khan all exit the club. Forwards Bare and Valencia both struggled to score enough goals in 2014, and even though the former ended up with a tally seven strikes courtesy of a late season rally, it wasn’t enough to justify his inclusion in the 2015. Brazilain centre back Lima started in 29 of Tianjin’s 30 Super League games in 2014 but was still deemed surplus to requirements, while Lebanese-Swedish defender Mohammed Ali Khan made just 14 starts as grizzled veteran Li Weifeng was the preffered partner for Lima. Ironically, Ali Khan, who probably made the least impact of all these foreign aids, is the only one to so far find a club, having moved back to Sweden with Halmstads.
The only Chinese player of any note to exit Tianjin is Du Zhenyu who returns to hometown club Changchun Yatai after two and a half years of mahua and goubuli baozi. Du appeared in 28 games for TEDA last season, but the 32-year-old seemed to fade as the season went on. However, the midfielder did make history by becoming the only Chinese player in the 2014 Super League to score a hat-trick when he netted all the goals in Tianjin’s 3-0 win over Harbin Yiteng back in March.
Aside from Du, Chun Jinzhao and Mao Kaiyu have transferred to League One’s Tianjin Songjiang and Inner Mongolia Zhongyou, respectively. Both played on loan in the amateur leagues in 2014 and so are unlikely to be missed by their former club.
Things have been quiet so far in Nanjing with only the edition of Icelandic striker Vioar Orn Kjatanssa worthy of serious note. The 24-year-old joins from Norwegian side Valerenga with whom he scored 31 in goals in 33 games in 2014. Kjatanssa will be joined in Jiangsu by goalkeeper Zhang Sipeng who will likely continue the backup role he held for at eight years at Beijing Guo’an.
Versatile Super League veteran Roda Antar has departed for Hangzhou Greentown after just one season with Sainty and has been followed out of Nanjing by less renowned foreign players Edinson Toloza and Yoon Sin-Young. Colombian forward Toloza arrived from Junior in the summer of 2014 and after just 2 goals in 14 Super League games has gone back from whence he came. Yoon arrived from Gyeongnam FC at the beginning of 2014 but made just nine starts in the centre of Sainty’s three man defence and will return to South Korea with Daejeon Citizen.
Meanwhile, Sainty’s domestic staff remains largely in tact. The only notable loss is back up goalkeeper Guan Zhen who moves to Super League newbies Shijiazhuang Ever Bright after featuring in 13 league games last season. Meanwhile, a quintet of players who didn’t feature in 2014 will not be part of Sainty’s 2015 squad. Li Chi has retired, Xu Youzhi has been released and Yin Lu, Zhu Chao and Tang Miao have all moved down to the lower leagues – the latter on loan.