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CSL Transfer Update – Part 1: Plenty of exits as top sides make slow start in transfer window

The transfer window only officially opened two days ago, but that doesn’t mean teams haven’t had time to set the wheels in motion for a busy off-season. That being said some clubs have been more active than others with few marquee signings being made so far. Here we take a look at what the clubs who finished in the top half of last season’s table have been up to in November, December and the first three days of January in terms of confirmed signings, departures and managerial changes.

Guangzhou Evergrande

In: – A quiet winter so far for the reigning Chinese and Asian champions whose two acquisitions have been made with an eye towards the future. Under-23 international midfielders Xu Xin and Li Yuanyi both arrive from Europe where they have been gaining experience with Atletico Madrid B and Portuguese club Leixoes, respectively.

Xu is a 21-year-old holding midfielder, while Li is a year older and a little more attack minded. Both players have featured regularly for the Chinese under-23 team this year and are in the squad for this months AFC Under-23 Asian Championship where Xu Xin is likely to be a starter. However, it is unlikely that either of them are going to get much playing time at club level in 2016.

Feng Renliang's time at Guangzhou Evergrande didn't work out and he has transferred to Beijing Renhe permenantly

Feng Renliang’s time at Guangzhou Evergrande didn’t work out and he has transferred to Beijing Renhe permenantly

Out: – Four players have already departed Evergrande this summer, but there was an air of inevitability about each exit. No one is surprised that Robinho has been let go after a pretty dismal half season in Canton. The former Brazil international wasn’t included in Evergrande’s Champions’ League squad, and the writing was on the wall when he was hooked at half-time in the Canton club’s quarter-final win over Club America in last month’s FIFA Club World Cup.

The other three departures are all players who have made loan deals from last season permanent. Feng Renliang, Shewket Yalqun and Zhang Hongnan have moved to Guizhou Beijing Renhe, Xinjiang and Shenzhen FC, respectively, after failing to find places in Evergrande’s loaded squad.

Shanghai SIPG

In: – Quiet off-season so far for the 2015 runners-up who are yet to make any signings.

Out: – Meanwhile, SIPG’s only outgoing player is young attacking midfielder Zheng Dalun who has transferred to League One side Tianjin Quanjian after spending the second half of last season on loan there. The 21-year-old may be highly rated, but the 2.6 million Euro transfer fee has raised some eyebrows, as well as inflating SIPG’s already well stocked coffers.

Shandong Luneng

Cuca's two year spell in Shandong has come to an end

Cuca’s two year spell in Shandong has come to an end

In: – So far, the biggest in for Shandong this off-season is the arrival of new manager Mano Menezes who replaces Brazilian compatriot Cuca in the Luneng hot-seat. Following an embarrassing scuffle with an assistant referee back in June, Cuca’s position looked untenable and Luneng will be hoping Menezes behaves with more decorum. The 53-year-old arrives after guiding Cruzeiro to eighth in the Brazilian First Division last season, and also had an unsuccessful two year spell in charge of his country’s national team which saw them knocked out in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Copa America and lose to Mexico in the final of the 2012 London Olympics.

On the pitch, additions have been sparse with only 20-year-old full back Chen Zhechao and goalkeeper Liu Zhenli moving to Jinan. Chen, who is in the Chinese squad for the Under-23 Asian Championships moves from Oriental Dragon in the lower leagues of Portugal, while Liu comes in from provincial rivals Qingdao Jonoon to act as a reliable back up Wang Dalei.

Out: – In terms of departures, the big news is the exits of veterans Han Peng and Wang Qiang who are both moving to relegated club Guizhou Beijing Renhe. 32-year-old striker Han made his Luneng debut all the way back in 2002 and has gone on to make 342 appearances, score 141 goals and win three league titles with the club. The local favourite has been on the margins of the first team the last two seasons, though, and needed to move in order to get first team football. Meanwhile, 33-year-old centre back Wang brings a five year spell with the club to an end.

Elsewhere, the trio trio Luo Senwen, Cui Peng and Shao Puliang have all been allowed to leave. Under-23 international midfielder Luo has made last season’s loan deal with newly promoted Hebei CFFC permanent, while Cui looks to resurrect a promising career that has been ruined by indiscipline with a move to Shijiazhuang Ever Bright. Shao is a back up goalkeeper who will join Luo in Hebei next season.

Beijing Guo’an

In: – With a replacement for former manager Gregorio Manzano still not in place, Guo’an’s only movement in the transfer market so far has been to bring back Uzbek international centre back Egor Krimets who spent 2013 on loan in the capital. The 23-year-old arrives from Uzbek champions Pakhtakor Tashkent at the end of a year that saw him included in Uzbekistan’s Asian Cup squad and become a more regular part of the national team’s starting XI.

Out: – Aside from the Shanghai Shenhua bound Manzano, Guo’an have already had some pretty significant departures this winter. Veteran midfielder Darko Matic is exiting after seven years with the club and top scorer Dejan Damjnovic is returning to FC Seoul where he spent six fruitful seasons before moving to China in 2014.

Darko Matic will be leaving Gongti after seven years

Darko Matic will be leaving Gongti after seven years

35-year-old Matic has been a fixture in Chinese football for the last nine years (he played two seasons for Tianjin TEDA before moving to Guo’an) and is one of the country’s few foreign footballers to gain a firm grasp of the language. It appears that he will remain in China, though, as a number of Super League clubs have reportedly expressed an interest in him. Among the reasons cited for Damjanovic’s departure were his family’s concerns over the air quality in the capital.

It’s long been known that retiring veteran striker Shao Jiayi wouldn’t be back for another year after he said an emotional farewell after the final game of last season, and Swedish attacker Erton Fejzullahu is also gone after being dropped to the reserves midway through last season.

One other departure is tricky winger Chen Zhizhao who moves to Guangzhou R&F. Guo’an’s summer signings of Zhang Chiming and the returning Zhang Xizhe were always likely to shrink the 27-year-old’s already limited game time, and he is returning to his native province in order to get more minutes on the pitch.

Henan Jianye

In: – Being the surprise packages of last season, it’s no surprise that fifth place finishers Jianye don’t want to rock the boat and they are yet to add to their squad this winter.

Out: – Not to keen to let anyone go either, the only departure this winter has been that of winger Xu Yang who has moved to Chongqing Lifan. Last season was the 28-year-old’s eighth in Henan, but his playing time was largely limited to a few appearances out of position as a full back. Meanwhile, Zhang Li, who spent last season on loan at League One club Wuhan Zall, has made the move a permanent one.

Shanghai Shenhua

In: – After a proactive start to last season’s transfer window, things have been very quiet at Hongkou so far this year with the only signing being Wang Lin who arrives from Hangzhou Greentown. The 28-year-old is an underwhelming signing, but he is at least an out and out right back, which is something the club lacked last year.

Gregorio Manzano has made the move from Beijing Guo'an to Shanghai Shenhua

Gregorio Manzano has made the move from Beijing Guo’an to Shanghai Shenhua

Otherwise, the big news has been the appointment of former Beijing Guo’an boss Gregorio Manzano to replace Francis Gillot. Hiring the previous manager of one of your bitterest rivals is always a risky business, and the Spaniard could be in for a hard time if he doesn’t get things going on the field pretty quickly.

Out: – Not much is going on the other way either with only defender Fan Lingjiang confirmed to departing to pastures unknown. Argentinian forward Lucas Viatri’s ties with the club are now also officially severed after he turned a loan spell with Banfield into a permanent transfer to Estudiantes.

Shijiazhuang Ever Bright

In: – After managing a seventh place finish in their first ever Super League season, Shijiazhuang have so far made two modest additions to their squad for 2016. 26-year-old left back Li Kai arrives from League One side Qingdao Hainiu and could serve as a replacement for under-23 international Mi Haolun who may not return after finishing his loan spell from Shandong Luneng.

The other signing is midfielder Cui Peng who will be trying to get a once promising career back on track. The 28-year-old product of Luneng‘s youth system made his debut for China at the age of 19 and represented his country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Since then, Cui’s career has been steadily going downhill as issues with his weight and discipline saw him increasingly isolated from Luneng’s first team.

Interestingly, Shijiazhuang do have form in instigating career renaissances, as evidenced by the fantastic season former Shanghai Shenhua wild child Mao Jianqing was having last year until a knee injury cut it short. If head coach Yasen Petrov can get something of Cui it would be quite an achievement.

Out: – Quite a few exits already this year with veteran Icelandic striker Eidur Gudjohnsen‘s being foremost among them. The 37-year-old former Chelsea and Barcelona star had surprised many when he made a relatively successful return to English football at the end of 2014 with Championship club Bolton Wanderers. Unfortunately, he was unable to make that translate in Shijiazhuang where he struggled to just one goal in fourteen appearances after joining last summer.

Georgi Iliev and Rodrigo Defendi will also be departing the club after being dropped to the reserves in the summer, while Bai He, Huang Fengtao and Wang Guoming will also be departing.

Bai He (heading a goal for Hong Kong against Qatar) has had a big year internationally but failed to replicate that at club level with Shijiazhuang

Bai He (heading a goal for Hong Kong against Qatar) has had a big year internationally but failed to replicate that at club level with Shijiazhuang

Despite impressing in the two 0-0 World Cup qualifying draws with China for his national team Hong Kong, defensive midfielder Bai struggled with the step up from League One to the Super League and appeared sparsely for Shijiazhuang in 2015. With the CFA introducing a rule that players holding Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan passports will count towards the foreign quota if they are not under contract by January 1st 2016, Bai had little choice but to return to the Special Administrative Region where he has joined Eastern.

30-year-old Huang is an attacking midfielder who has been limited to the occassional substitute appearance since the club got promoted, while Wang is a goalkeeper who never played for the club again after conceding three goals in consecutive games against Tianjin TEDA and Beijing Guo’an in the spring and being replaced by Guan Zhen.

Chongqing Lifan

In: – Shijiazhuang’s exploits somewhat overshadowed Chongqing’s impressive achievement of scraping top half finish just one year after promotion, and the southwest club have shown no sign of resting on their laurels this winter. However, one of their biggest changes was an enforced one when manager Wang Baoshan announced that he wanted to leave after three successful years with the club.

Wang will spend 2016 chasing another promotion with Guizhou Beijing Renhe, while Chongqing have appointed South Korean Chang Woe-ryong as his replacement. The 56-year-old made his name in China by guiding Qingdao Jonoon to an unlikely sixth place Super League finish in 2011, but a very short spell with Dalian Aerbin ended badly and his return to Jonoon saw him sacked in August of 2013 with the club on their way to relegation.

Chongqing’s biggest signings so far has been turning the loan deals of Fernandinho into a permanent one. The 22-year-old impressed on the wing after arriving from Portuguese club Estoril in the summer and will be back on a permanent deal in 2016.

The club has also made three domestic signings in the shape of Ding Jie, Xu Yang and Deng Xiaofei. The versatile Ding, who can play right-back or in central midfield, arrives after spending his entire career with Liaoning Whowin, while Xu is a winger who, as highlighted above, found himself marginalised at Henan Jianye last season.

Deng, meanwhile, will challenge international news making water drinker Sui Weijie for Chongqing’s starting goalkeeper jersey after losing a similar battle to Zhang Sipeng at Jiangsu Sainty last season.

Sun Jihai is leaving Chongqing after a single season

Sun Jihai is leaving Chongqing after a single season

Out: – There are also a number of players on their way out of Chongqing this summer including the entire central defensive trio of Sun Jihai, Issam El Adoua and Adrian Leijer. 38-year-old veteran Sun returns to the club, if not the city, where he won the CFA Cup and qualified for two AFC Champions’ League as he follows Wang Baoshan to Renhe.

Moroccan international El Adoua and Leijer both depart after just a single season in Chongqing. Summer signing Jael Ferreira is also gone after being overshadowed on the wing and kept out of the starting line-up by compatriot Fernandinho. Brazilian striker Guto, who fired the club to promotion as League One’s top scorer in 2014 is also gone after spending the second half of the season in the reserves.

Space has also been made for the arrival of Deng Xiaofei by moving back up goalkeeper Zhang Lei over to Hangzhou Greentown.

Based in China for five years, Jamie has been exploring tiny little third tier Hubei cities without football teams or decent internet connections, but is now a regular at China League One side Wuhan Zall. A keen football afficionado, he regularly takes in the Chinese Super League, enjoying matches in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Nanjing. Jamie is also a keen observer of the fortunes of the Chinese National side.

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