Some of the Super League’s top sides may have made a slow start in the transfer window, but there has been plenty of movement among clubs who finished in the bottom half of last season’s table or are newly-promoted from League One. A rebranded Jiangsu’s pricey purchase of Hangzhou Greentown goalkeeper Gu Chao grabs the headlines, but there is already a lot going on as clubs seek to strengthen for the coming year. All transfers are moves officially completed as of January 3rd.
In: – Following a full takeover by the electronics giant, Jiangsu Sainty will be known as Jiangsu Suning in 2016, and the club has made one major splash in the transfer market so far. That is the purchase of goalkeeper Gu Chao who arrives from Hangzhou Greentown for a fee reported to be high as 7 million Euros.
If that figure is accurate, it makes Gu the most expensive goalkeeper in Chinese history and demonstrates Suning’s willingness to splash the cash. Despite the occasional mistake, Gu impressed in 2015 and made more saves than any other goalkeeper while conceding just 35 goals on a pretty weak team. The 26-year-old is being touted as a future international, but he will be under a lot of pressure next season to justify that figure should it prove to be accurate.
Out: – Even before the season was over, Jiangsu’s international players Wu Xi, Ren Hang and Sun Ke were the subject of feverish transfer speculation but, as it stands, all three players remain with the club. In fact, aside from Colombian striker Edison Toloza who has been let go permanently after spending a year away on loan, the only exit from the club so far is goalkeeper Deng Xiaofei who has moved to Chongqing Lifan as a result of Gu’s arrival.
In: – It’s been all about the full backs for Yatai so far this winter as they have signed one for each side to challenge 2015 regulars Jiang Zhe and Zhang Xiaofei. 28-year-old left back Fan Xiaodong arrives from Hangzhou Greentown after making 24 league starts for the club last year.
On the right, London born Hong Kong international Jack Sealy was picked up just in time to beat the January 1st deadline for Hong Kong passport holders to not count against the foreign player quota. The 28-year-old arrives from club side South China and is one of many Hong Kong internationals to be brought to the mainland this winter after playing against China in the Autumn’s World Cup qualifiers.
Out: – The only departure so far has been that of Hungarian international Szabolcs Huszti who leaves after a year and a half in the northeast. The 32-year-old creative midfielder had a good spell in Changchun but, with Hungary qualifying for this summer’s European Championships, there is little surprise that a return to the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt appealed to the former Hannover 96 player.
In: – Hangzhou are one of at least six Super League teams who will start 2016 with a new manager thanks to the appointment of South Korean Hong Myung-bo to replace Yang Ji. The 46-year-old is a veteran of four World Cups as a player, but his only head coaching job has been an unsuccessful stint in charge of the South Korean national team which saw him fired after the team’s poor display at the 2014 World Cup.
In terms of signings, Hong’s influence is immediately apparent with the introduction of veteran defender Oh Beom-seok from Suwon Bluewings. The 31-year-old has 43 international caps to his name, last appearing for South Korea in 2013. Elsewhere, Chongqing Lifan back up goalkeeper Zhang Lei has been brought in to try and fill the gaping hole left by Gu Chao’s departure.
Out: – Aside from Gu Chao, whose expensive move to Jiangsu Suning is discussed above, the club already as six confirmed departures with more apparently on the way. Right back Wang Lin has gone to Shanghai Shenhua, left back Fan Xiaodong has made a move to Changchun Yatai and veteran centre back Cao Xuan has dropped down a division to play for Dalian Yifang. Including Gu Chao, that means the club will be short at least four Chinese players who regularly featured in last season’s successfully stingy back five.
In terms of foreigners, Tunisian defender Bassem Boulabi is gone after spending the second half of last season in the reserves, while Serbian attacking midfielder Milos Bosancic is off after just half a year in Zhejiang. Veteran Lebanese midfielder Roda Antar is also on his way after playing only one season in Hangzhou in what was his seventh year in China.
In: – No new signings yet as perennial strugglers Liaoning Whowin prepare for what will likely be another difficult season.
Out: – There will certainly need to be signings, though, as the club makes an almost wholesale clear out of its foreign players. Kim Yoo-jin, Franck Boli, Eric Bicfalvi and Derick Ogbu will all, apparently, be departing, while Paulo Henrique‘s loan from Shanghai Shenhua will not be extended in any way.
South Korean centre back Kim lasted just one season in his second spell with the club, while Ivorian winger Boli also only made it through a year, and Bicfalvi just half of that. Nigerian centre forward Ogbu had a difficult second season after signing half way through 2014 and looking the business. The 25-year-old scored eight time in his debut half season, but struggled to the same tally across the whole of 2015 as Liaoning’s attack suffered in the absence of the injured James Chamanga.
The good news for Liaoning is that Chamanga will apparently be back in 2016, after spending the second half of last season in the reserve squad through injury. However, the veteran Zambian, who will be 36 by the time next season starts, won’t be joined by midfielder and right back Ding Jie who has moved to Super League rival Chongqing Lifan.
In: – The one major move involving TEDA this winter has been the release of aging manager Arie Haan and his replacement with Serbian Dragan Okuka. He may well have been a member of the legendary Dutch “Total Football” team in the 1970s, but Haan is best known in China as the man who guided the national team to the Asian Cup final in 2004.
However, the 67-year-old’s stock has gradually gone down since he returned to China to manage clubs in 2009 and he hit a nadir last season when TEDA were almost relegated. For the incoming Okuka, this is a third job coaching in the Super League having previously taken Jiangsu Sainty to the runners-up spot in 2012 and guiding Changchun Yatai to safety in 2014.
TEDA’s only signing so far this season is an interesting one in the shape of 34-year-old attacker Qu Bo. The former Qingdao Jonoon and Guizhou Renhe player has earned 78 international caps over his career, but he has spent the last year and a half with League One club Qingdao Hainiu in a spell that has been blighted by injury.
Out: – No confirmed departures to report on yet, but there are sure to be a few.
In: – R&F look to rebuild after a disastrous 2015 that saw them go from qualifying for their maiden Champions’ League campaign to almost being relegated. So far, their most significant signing is winger Chen Zhichao who arrives from Beijing Guo’an. The winger has bags of potential that he has not quite fulfilled in Beijing, and one wonders if he will have better luck in his home province.
R&F’s only other signing so far is 22-year-old defender Yang Ting from Belgian club Tubize. The youngster, who normally plays in the centre of defence, moved to Belgium when Chengdu Tiancheng went out of business at the end of 2014. He hasn’t had much first team football since then, though, and failed to impress while representing China’s under-23s at last summer’s Toulon Tournament. Yang hasn’t made it into the squad for this month’s under-23 Asian Cup.
Out: – R&F’s two significant departures have both gone to newly promoted side Hebei CFFC. The 29-year-old attacker Jiang Ning leaves after three years as a regular in the starting line-up, and he is joined by Zhang Yuan who is less likely to be missed. Ostensibly a winger, Zhang failed to really impress in his four years in Guangzhou and ended up playing some of last season as a makeshift right back. Striker Zhang Shuo is also off after turning his mid-season loan move to League One’s Tianjin Quanjian into a permanent one.
In: – Despite having an incredible promotion season in League One last season, Yanbian clearly have to strengthen to cope with the rigors of the Super League and, unsurprisingly given the team’s ethnic identity and head coach, they have turned to South Korea to do so. Manager Park Tae-ha has brought in compatriots Yoon Bit-garam and Kim Seung-dae to strengthen his squad.
Midfielder Yoon burst on to the scene early and represented South Korea at the 2011 Asian Cup, although the player, who arrives from Jeju United, hasn’t been capped since 2012. Kim, meanwhile, recently made his national team debut against China when he represented South Korea at the East Asian Cup last August. Kim scored the opener in his country’s dominant 2-0 win as part of an impressive display. The 24-year-old winger comes to Yanbian from Pohang Steelers.
Yanbian have also signed Beijing BG‘s Han Xuan to provide cover in the centre of defence and returning local boy Cui Ren who left the club before the beginning of last season for an unhappy spell with Shanghai Shenxin.
Out: – The only confirmed departure so far is a surprising one in the very square-like shape of Jailton Paraiba. The diminutive Brazilian winger was an integral part of Yanbian’s attack last season, but he won’t have a chance to compete with them in the Super League. His availability will surely put several League One teams on notice.
In: – Hebei edged Dalian Aerbin in last season’s League One promotion race but the wealthy club were heavily reliant on their foreign players and no doubt need to strengthen their domestic core in order to compete this season. They’ve already taken some steps towards doing that with the signings of Zhang Yuan and Jiang Ning from Guangzhou R&F. As suggested above, Zhang may not be a signing to get pulses racing, but the acquisition of Jiang is a significant one as the 29-year-old will be able to provide plenty of attacking support to Hebei’s foreign contingent.
The Qinhuangdao club have also secured the services of Luo Senwen on a permanent basis after the under-23 international midfielder impressed while on a season long loan from Shandong Luneng. Goalkeeper Shao Puliang also arrives from Shandong and is likley to be used as back up to Yang Cheng who made the same transfer a season earlier.
Out: No one has officially left the club yet.