January Transfer Update – Part 1: Elkeson switch to SIPG leads big money moves
The Super League season is now just one month away and the transfer window is really hotting up. Elkeson’s move from Guangzhou Evergrande to title rivals Shanghai SIPG made international news recently, but there have been plenty of other big money signings to keep us busy over the past few weeks. This round-up looks at all the signings and departures involving clubs that finished in the top half last season between our last round-up on January 3rd and January 26th. Check back over the next couple of days for even more massive moves involving the rest of the CSL clubs.
In: – The Chinese and Asian champions remain quiet on the signings front and continue to be focused on youth. Since our last update, only 22-year-old centre back Han Pengfei has signed from Portuguese lower league side Mafra. Han is one for the future and we are not likely to see much of him this season.
Out: – For the first time during their six year rise to prominence, Evergrande have started making headlines as a selling club, with the decision to let Brazilian forward Elkeson move to title rivals Shanghai SIPG attracting international attention. The line from Evergrande that they were allowing SIPG to buy the 26-year-old “for the purpose of supporting Chinese teams to compete in the AFC Champions League and for the national glory” is what caught people’s interest, but cold hard cash may also have played a role.
SIPG splashed €18.5 million on the 2014 Super League Golden Boot winner which is more than triple the €5 million or so Napoli were reported to be offering to pick up Elkeson a year ago. The South American has won three leagues and two continental championships in three seasons with Evergrande. However, despite scoring the winner in last November’s AFC Champions League final, Elkeson failed to recapture his 2014 form after missing a decent chunk of last season through injury and this could prove to be the right move for player and club.
One move that is undoubtedly right for Evergrande is selling former international midfielder Zhao Xuri to incredibly wealthy League One club Tianjin Quanjian for €4.2 million. The former international midfielder made 25 CSL and ACL appearances last season, but over half were from the bench and it is no great surprise that Evergrande have decided to let a squad player leave for what is a huge sum of money for a 30-year-old.
To cap off Evergrande’s shrewd salesmanship, they have also managed to extract ￥30 million from Shanghai Shenhua for back up goalkeeper Li Shuai. The 33-year-old has been relegated to the bench since Zeng Cheng moved to Guangzhou prior to the 2013 season, although he did recently show he can still do a job while replacing the injured Zeng in the FIFA Club World Cup.
Elsewhere, 20-year-old attacker Wang Junhui has moved to Shijiazhuang Ever Bright on a season long loan and Italian midfielder Alessandro Diamanti has been shipped out to Serie A club Atalanta on a temporary basis after an unsuccessful half season with Premier League outfit Watford.
In: – So far, the €18.5 million purchase of Elkeson is SIPG’s one and only signing this winter. The price may be high, but the Brazilian could prove to be worth it if he manages anything like the record setting 28 league goals he struck in 2014. That’s a big if, though, as the 26-year-old managed just ten goals in 27 CSL and ACL appearances last season.
Elkeson circa 2014 could be a valuable edition as SIPG juggle a maiden Champions League campaign with a push for the league title. There is no guarantee that he will return to those levels, though, and if he doesn’t the price tag is hard to justify. It is also going to be interesting to see how Sven Goran-Eriksson accommodates him in an attack already featuring Asamoah Gyan, Dario Conca, Wu Lei and Yu Hai.
Out: – Elkeson may be SIPG’s first winter signing, but he won’t be the last as the club has another free space in their foreign player quota after confirming the departures of Tobias Hysen and Davi.
Swedish striker Hysen departs after scoring 31 goals in two years in Shanghai. The 33-year-old struck 19 times in an excellent debut season, but was reportedly unhappy that the club signed Asamoah Gyan last summer and apparently wants to return to his home country.
Davi followed Eriksson from Guangzhou R&F to SIPG prior to the 2015 season, but played most of last year in a deeper midfield role than he was used to because of the presence of Dario Conca. The 31-year-old Brazilian’s future remains up in the air, although he is keen to stay in China if the right offer comes.
SIPG have also allowed centre back Wu Yuyin to move to League One promotion chasers Dalian Yifang. The 26-year-old spent the entirety of last season in the reserves and his stint with SIPG may be best remembered for getting sent off after grabbing Jiang Ning’s balls during a match against Guangzhou R&F in 2014.
In: – Shandong have had a quiet winter, but they have now made one key signing in the shape of towering Brazilian centre back Gil. The 28-year-old signs for €10 million from Brazilian champions Corinthians and, although he has only a handful of caps, he played the full 90 minutes in his country’s last international in November – a World Cup qualifier against Peru. Defence was a major problem for Shandong last season as they dropped out of the title race and new manager Mano Menezes will be hoping his lofty compatriot can help solidify things at the back.
Luneng have also brought in another youngster in the shape of attacker Huang Pu. The 21-year-old returns to Shandong after playing in Portugal’s lower leagues since 2013.
Out: – Luneng let a slew of players leave early in the winter, but since then only left back Mi Haolun has departed. The under-23 international has turned last season’s loan to Shijiazhuang Ever Bright into a permanent move.
In: – Guo’an have been busy since our last update by appointing a manager and signing a couple of Brazilian champions. Italian Alberto Zaccheroni has taken over the club nearly two months after it was confirmed Gregorio Manzano was departing.
The 62-year-old made his name in Serie A where he won one title with AC Milan, but he is also well known to Asian fans as the man who managed Japan’s national team between 2010 and 2014. Zaccheroni guided Japan to the 2011 Asian Cup but hasn’t had a job since stepping down following a group stage exit at the Brazil World Cup.
To help Zaccheroni get Guo’an back into the Champions League the club have signed Renato Augusto and Ralf from Brazilian champions Corinthians. Highly touted attacking midfielder Renato Augusto arrives for €8 million, while Ralf is a defensive midfielder who cost a more paltry €1 million.
Renato Augusto had previously spent 5 years in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen, but had one of the best season’s of his career last year after previously being held back by injuries. The 27-year-old, who featured for Brazil in their most recent World Cup qualifiers, was considered a decent prospect for a return to Europe but has apparently chosen China because of the financial security it offers him in the event he suffers another serious injury.
Ralf captained Corinthians, whose league winning squad has been torn apart by Chinese clubs this winter, and the 31-year-old was capped by Brazil earlier in his career.
Guo’an also welcome back Zhang Chengdong who has cut his loan to La Liga side Rayo Vallecano short after failing to break into the first team. The Chinese international made just three Copa del Rey starts for Rayo and came on for one 8 minute spell in a league game during his disappointing time in Spain. There are rumours suggesting the right-back and winger may move from the capital to Shanghai Shenhua before the window closes, but nothing is confirmed yet.
Out: – Both Ha Dae-sung and Pablo Batalla will be leaving Guo’an after two years with the club. Ha, who was a Korean international when he moved to Beijing and has since dropped off enormously, is moving to Japan with FC Tokyo. Batalla, who managed 14 goals and 10 assists in all competitions last year, will return to Turkish club Bursaspor who he left to come to Beijing in the first place.
In: – After defying expectations by finishing fifth in 2015, Henan have finally made a major off season signing by picking up Australian Ryan McGowan. The 26-year-old, who can play as a centre back or defensive midfielder, has spent the last year with Scottish club Dundee United, but he played for Shandong Luneng prior to that where he will always be fondly remembered for scoring the winning goal in the dying seconds of the 2014 CFA Cup final.
McGowan played for Australia at the 2014 World Cup and has recently returned to the Socceroos fold after an absence of more than a year. The former Hearts player has been bought for a fee of around €400,000.
Out: – Centre back and utility striker Bi Jinhao is Henan’s big loss as he moves to Shanghai Shenhua for a fee variously reported to be between ￥60 and ￥80 million yuan. Jianye converted the tall 25-year-old from a striker into a centre back where he performed well enough last season to earn his first international call up and cap. He will be missed by Henan, but the fee is astronomical for a player who has effectively had one good season.
Henan’s only other recent loss is Brazilian forward Marquez who spent 2015 on loan with Palmeiras and has now moved there on a permanent deal.
In: – After a slow start, Shenhua’s transfer window has finally come to life with three more domestic signings since our last update. Centre back Bi Jinhao signed for a fee reported to be as high as ￥80 million Yuan from Henan Jianye, while goalkeeper Li Shuai comes from Guangzhou Evergrande for ￥30 million. At least midfielder Qin Sheng arrives from Liaoning Whowin on a free.
As mentioned above, Bi was once a striker who made a breakthrough at centre back last season and even got a national team set-up before the end of the year. The 25-year-old did also feature up front as an occasional clumsy targetman for Jianye last season (he also took on that role in the dying moments of his international debut against Hong Kong in November) but, with Demba Ba in the team, the majority of Bi’s time will likely be spent in defence. Shenhua are certainly short at centre back, but the question is whether one good season playing as part of the back five which Henan use will translate into success in Shenhua’s back four.
While certainly proving he’s still got it in him to put on a good performance at the recent FIFA Club World Cup, the signing of Li seems a strange one given that Shenhua already have two regular starting goalkeepers in Geng Xiaofeng and Qiu Shengjiong. Meanwhile, Qin, who was once a teammate of Li’s at Evergrande, arrives after having a reasonable season with Liaoning which partially restored his reputation following a bad time in Guangzhou.
Out: – No further first team departures confirmed as of yet.
Shijiazhuang Ever Bright
In: – Shijiazhuang have further bolstered their squad by signing young attacker Wang Junhui on loan from Guangzhou Evergrande. The 20-year-old took advantage of the CSL champions’ injury crisis to make eleven first team appearances in the middle of last season, but he’s more likely to get game time in Shijiazhuang who are short on attacking depth.
The club has also completed the permanent signing of under-23 international Mi Haolun after he spent last season on loan from Shandong Luneng. The 22-year-old made the left wing-back position his own last year but, unfortunately, also demonstrated how defensively suspect he can be with a disastrous performance against Syria in the recent Asian under-23 Championships.
Ever Bright have also signed back up goalkeeper Shao Puliang from Luneng who we, like other sources, erroneously reported had moved to Hebei CFFC in our last round-up. Right province, wrong team.
Out: – Nobody has left Shijiazhuang since our last round-up.
In: Chongqing have made just one signing since our last update, bringing in South Korean midfielder Jung Woo-Young from Vissel Kobe. The 26-year-old has spent his entire senior career playing football in the Japanese leagues and has been a regular in South Korea’s international squads since the summer of 2o15.
Out: – No more confirmed outgoings since our last update.
Author: Jamie McIlroy
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.