Widespread reports in both the Chinese and Australian sports media claiming Shanghai Shenhua has told Tim Cahill to find another club are false, the Australian international’s agent told WEF.
Over the past two weeks, with the Chinese Super League on an international break, speculation mounted in the Shanghai media that Cahill would leave in the summer transfer window which opens in a matter of days.
Several reports quoted figures inside the club praising the former Everton man for his “professionalism and dedication”, but bemoaning his contribution on the pitch. So far Cahill has started 13 games, made two assists but only scored one goal – a penalty against Hangzhou Greentown.
After a bright start to 2015, Shanghai Shenhua have underachieved so far this season, sliding to 12th in the 16 team table, well off the pace to match the boardroom’s stated aim of a minimum of 6th placed finish, leading the club to consider it’s options and with it Cahill’s Shanghai future.
This morning, The Oriental Sports Daily carried a headline “Cahill’s Hongkou Farewell tomorrow” (pictured, top), claiming the Asian Cup winner’s last home appearance for Shenhua would be against Liaoning in tomorrow evening’s match, whilst Tencent news carried the headline “Cahill departure a foregone conclusion”.
However, the player’s agent, Ante Alilovic of Entourage Management, contacted WEF directly to issue a stern rebuke of any suggestion Cahill had been told to find a new club and insisted his client would fulfill the terms of his contract, which is believed to run until the end of this year.
“We haven’t been notified at any point from the club. Tim will continue to be focused on football – that’s all,” he said.
Cahill’s representative’s denial comes despite some very specific, yet mysterious reports to the contrary. Australian media SBS carried a story quoting an unamed agent who had been tasked with finding a new striker for the club, who said, His form has been quite patchy and the club now wants to either loan him or perhaps even come to a mutual contract termination.”
Earlier this week, on Tuesday afternoon, local portal Shanghai Rexian reported Cahill would join city rivals Shanghai Shenxin onloan until the end of the season – but, in a highly unusual Chinese media move, the story was taken offline barely 30 minutes later, before Shenhua made an official statement saying the club had made no decisions had been made as to comings and goings at the club in the summer window.
At present, Shenhua’s transfer options are complicated by Chinese league foreign player restrictions. The club currently has filled its maxium quota of five foreign players and can replace two of these in the summer transfer window. However under the “3+1” rule, it can only field three foreigners of any nationality at once, plus a further foreigner who is from an AFC country – which Cahill as an Australian is along with team mate, defender Avraam Papadopoulos.
Both of these players have question marks over their performances this season, and the club is said to be satisfied with the performances of its remaining foreigners, Columbian Gio Moreno, Brazilian Paulo Henrique, and Zambian Stopilla Sunzu. The end result means that if the club brings in two more players, one of them must be from an AFC country.
Chinese media often report the departure of players quite some time before official announcements are made, starting off with speculation, then publishing more specific quotes with unnamed club insiders as transfer window openings times get closer.
The speculation surrounding Cahill certainly fits such a pattern and it would appear that Shenhua intend to move the player on one way or another.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015