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January Transfer Update – Part 2: Ramires and Gervinho signings make international waves

After bringing you all the January transfer moves among the Super League’s top half clubs earlier in the week, we round up all the happenings in the other half of the table since our last wrap at the beginning of the month. The respective signings of Ramires and Gervinho by Jiangsu Suning and Hebei CFFC have grabbed international attention, but there has been plenty going on elsewhere, too. The following is a round-up of moves made between January 3rd and 28th.  

Jiangsu Suning

In: – There’s only one place to begin this round-up and it’s with Jiangsu’s eye-catching signing of Chelsea midfielder Ramires. The Brazil international moves for a Chinese record transfer fee reported to be between £20 and 25 million.

It’s a huge fee for a player who has been frozen out of the Chelsea starting line-up since Guus Hiddink took over from Jose Mourinho in December, but the former Benfica player has won the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup during his five years in west London and is still only 28. The figure is certainly ostentatious, but Ramires will be a cut above the vast majority of the CSL’s midfielders provided he settles in well and is sufficiently motivated.

Ramires will be joined in Nanjing by Australian international centre back Trent Sainsbury who arrives from Dutch Eredivise side PEC Zwolle for a comparatively paltry €1 million. The 24-year-old helped his national team to a quarter-final victory over China in last year’s Asian Cup and was “Man of the Match” in Australia’s final victory over South Korea.

Second Time Lucky: Sun Ke's first move to Tianjin TEDA fell through, but now he's off to Quanjian

Second Time Lucky: Sun Ke’s first move to Tianjin TEDA fell through, but now he’s off to Quanjian

Out: – Thus far, Suning have managed to retain the services of sort after internationals Wu Xi and Ren Hang, but their China teammate Sun Ke has officially departed for League One side Tianjin Quanjian. As a company, Quanjian actually signed Sun for ¥66 million last summer while they were still investors in Super League club Tianjin TEDA.

That move was cancelled when Quanjian fell out with TEDA and took over second tier club Tianjin Songjiang, but the “natural medicine” company maintained ownership of Sun while allowing him to continue playing in Jiangsu. There remained some uncertainty over the winger’s future as he thought playing in League One would damage his international career, but Quanjian have convinced Sun to make the move now, rather than wait for them to win promotion.

A winter exit that was a bit more certain was that of gargantuan Brazilian centre back Eleilson who leaves Nanjing after seven years with the club. The popular 30-year-old picked up a serious knee injury in his first appearance last season and, although he is now back to fitness, the club’s new owners have decided to part ways with him. The gentle giant, who almost helped Jiangsu win the CFA Cup as a makeshift centre forward in 2014, has stated that he wants to stay in China, although he has had no solid offers as yet.

Another centre back on his way is Marius Constantine whose buyout clause won’t be activated after a 6 month loan spell. The Romanian followed Jiangsu manager Dan Petrescu from Targu Mures last summer, but will return to his former club.

A final departure is centre forward Vidar Orn Kjartansson who moves to Swedish club Malmo for €325,000 after a year in Nanjing. The Icelandic international managed a disappointing thirteen goals in 35 league and cup appearances last season.

Changchun Yatai

In: – Since our last round-up, Changchun’s only signing is Spanish born Taiwanese international Yaki Yen. The centre back has previously ground out a career in Spain’s lower leagues, but has made the move to China after picking up a Taiwanese passport last year.

Out: – Following Szabolcs Huszti’s departure, it seemed certain that his Hungarian compatriot Akos Elek would follow him out of the club. The midfielder spent a disappointing season in the northeast and returns to Diosgyor from whom he was originally signed.

Hangzhou Greentown

High Expectations: Lofty striker Tan Yang signed for Hebei CFFC in the summer, but now he's going to Hangzhou

High Expectations: Lofty striker Tan Yang signed for Hebei CFFC in the summer, but now he’s going to Hangzhou

In: – Not much to report since our last update with Hangzhou making a couple of low key signings. 30-year-old midfielder Cheng Mouyi comes in after his contract with Chongqing Lifan was not renewed.

Hangzhou have also brought back 6′ 5” striker Tan Yang who developed through their youth system. The 27-year-old comes in from Portuguese club Mafra, but spent the second half of last season on loan with Hebei CFFC as they won promotion from League One. Unfortuately, Tan’s contirbution to that was limited to six substitute appearances with no goals, and he’s unlikely to do much more than appear late in games as a long ball option.

Out: – The only confirmed recent exit is that of veteran centre back Wu Wei who has hardly played since returning to Hangzhou in 2014 following a two year stint with Guizhou Renhe.

Liaoning Whowin

In: – Liaoning have made four signings since our last update, the most high profile of which is centre back Assani Lukimya who comes in from Bundesliga side Werder Bremen for €2 million. The former Congolese international has spent his entire career in Germany and should considerably strengthen Whowin’s back line.

Lukimya may be partnered in the centre of defence by former Australian international Michael Thwaite. The 32-year-old arrives from A-League side Perth Glory and can also play as a defensive midfielder should Liaoning wish to add steel in the middle of the park.

Liaoning’s other foreign signing is Senegalese striker Ibrahima Traore who comes in from Emirati club Al-Nasr. Remarkably, the 30-year-old actually played in China for the now defunct Chengdu Wuniu in 2005 at the age of just 19. Since then, his career has taken him to Morocco, Iran and the UAE via Monaco whom he helped win promotion from Ligue 2 in 2013. Traore manged an impressive 34 goals in 43 appearances during his time with Al-Nasr.

New Liaoning signing Liu Shangkun celebrates his only goal of 2015 with Wuhan Zall

New Liaoning signing Liu Shangkun celebrates his only goal of 2015 with Wuhan Zall

Liaoning have also made one domestic signing in the shape of Liu Shangkun who arrives from Wuhan Zall. The 23-year-old right-back has shown flashed of enormous potential during his time in Hubei, but has struggled to reproduce that on a consistent basis.

Out: – Liaoning have suffered some significant losses, but have also made some big money since our last round-up thanks to selling left-back Ding Haifeng and goalkeeper Zhang Lu for significant fees. The 24-year-old Ding has been developing into one of China’s best left backs over the last couple of years, but the ¥50 million transfer fee that newly promoted Hebei CFFC have paid for him will cushion the blow of his departure.

However, Liaoning’s most spectacular piece of a salesmanship has been their extraction of a ¥70 million fee for Zhang from League One side Tianjin Quanjian. The move makes Zhang the most expensive goalkeeper in Chinese history, with the 28-year-old’s hefty price tag baffling almost everybody. With that kind of money being offered for a goalkeeper who is certainly nowhere near China’s top five, it is no surprise that Liaoning chose to accept the deal

One other player who is departing Whowin this winter is midfielder Qin Sheng who leaves on a free to Shanghai Shenhua after one season in Liaoning which saw him make 24 appearances.

Tianjin TEDA

In: – Unlike their crosstown rivals Tianjin Quanjian who have been spending absurd amounts of money this winter despite their League One status, TEDA have had an altogether quieter winter. Their only signing since our last update is to bring back 22-year-old attacker Li Zhibin who has been developing in Spain’s lower leagues for the past two years.

Out: – We certainly will see TEDA make some more signings, though, as it has been confirmed that at least two foreign players will be departing the club. Romanian attacker Cristian Tanase is moving to Turkish club Sivasspor after failing to impress during his half season in Tianjin.

A more significant departure is that of highly rated Iranian centre back and defensive midfielder Morteza Pouraliganji. The 23-year-old international has decided not to stay in Tianjin and is moving to Qatari club moved to Al Sadd. In a sign of how well he is regarded, Pouraliganji apparently had offers from some European clubs, but opted to move to Al Sadd so that he could play on the same team as Spanish great Xavi.

Guangzhou R&F

Swedish international Gustav Svensson has moved to Guangzhou R&F

Swedish international Gustav Svensson has moved to Guangzhou R&F

In: – After a dreadful 2015 which saw the club almost relegated a year after finishing third, R&F continue their rebuilding process with three new signings. Foremost among them is Swedish international Gustav Svensson who has been bought from IFK Goteborg for a fee of around €500,000.

The 28-year-old is a defensive midfielder who can also play centre back and has been a recent regular in Sweden’s squads. With R&F’s young South Korean international Jang Hyun-soo also being a defensive midfielder who can play centre back, it will be interesting to see how R&F opt to configure the two in their line-ups next season.

Another signing from Scandinavia is Brazilian attacker Bruninho who has been picked up from Danish club FC Nordsjaelland for a fee of €2.5 million. The 26-year-old, who can play on the wing or through the middle, managed nine goals in fifteen appearances during his brief spell with Nordsjaelland.

R&F have also added Xiao Zhi to their attack after the 30-year-old brought his nine year spell with Henan Jianye to an end. The target man centre forward played a key role in Henan’s successful 2013 promotion push, but missed half of last season through injury and was unable to fight his way back into the squad. Expect Xiao’s contributions to R&F to mostly be off the bench.

Out: – It’s no surprise that midfielder Michel has been shipped out on loan to Spanish second division side Oviedo after a disappointing 2015. The Spanish midfielder was brought over last winter by R&F’s new manager Cosmin Contra who worked with him at Levante. But after the Romanian boss got the bullet last August, it was clear Michel’s days in Guangzhou were numbered.

31-year-old defensive midfielder Li Yan returns to his hometown club, League Two’s Baoding Yingli Yitong, after spending the entirety of his career playing in Guangzhou with R&F, Evergrande and the now defunct Sunray Cave. Meanwhile, 34-year-old defender Li Zhe is retiring after five years with R&F.

Yanbian Funde

In: – One of the big “ins” since our last update is the confirmation of a new name for the League One champions. Thanks to a sponsorship deal with the Shenzhen based Funde Life Insurance company, Yanbian Changbaishan are now Yanbian Funde. The deal was actually agreed in the middle of last season provided Yanbian got promoted, and the name change was made official earlier in January.

To add to the South Korean signings discussed in our last update, Yanbian have bolstered their defence with the acquisition of Serbian centre back Nikola Petkovic. The 29-year-old comes in from Belgian side KVC Westerlo and China will be the ninth country the well travelled Serb has competed in.

Make Yourself At Home: Han Guanghui signs the contract to seal his return to Yanbian

Make Yourself At Home: Han Guanghui signs the contract to seal his return to Yanbian

Yanbian have also introduced attacking midfielder Han Guanghui from Beijing Institute of Technology. As well as captaining BIT, the highly rated Han also captained China at last year’s World University Games in South Korea.

With BIT being relegated from League One last season, it was inevitable that the 27-year-old would depart and it makes sense that he would return to his native Yanbian. Although, whether Han can graduate to this level remains to be seen.

Another interesting pick up is that of Tian Yinong who played for Shenyang Zhongze before the club went bust just before last season. Tian spent 2015 helping amateur club Shenyang City gain promotion to League Two but one wonders how much playing time he will get in the top tier.

Out: – No more significant departures as of yet.

Hebei CFFC

In: – A couple of days before Jiangsu Suning broke the bank to bring in Ramires, Hebei made a marquee signing of their own by picking up Gervinho from Roma. The former Arsenal winger arrived for a fee reported to be in the region of €18 million.

Gervinho is swapping Rome for Qinhuangdao

Gervinho is swapping Rome for Qinhuangdao

At 28, the Ivorian international, who helped his country lift the African Cup of Nations in 2015, could prove to be one of the Super League’s top players this season. The key word, though, is could as Arsenal fans have less than fond memories of the bizarrely coiffured star who produced periods of exceptional form after moving to Roma in 2013.

Former Roma manager Rudi Garcia has said that Gervinho needs confidence to perform well and he’ll presumably be given that by being treated as an absolute superstar in the CSL. One also wonders what kind of package the Ivorian is on given that a summer move to the UAE reportedly fell through thanks to his “obscene” demands for a helicopter and a private beach. Gervinho has denied that story but it will be interesting to know if Hebei’s owners have somehow convinced the player that the polluted port of Qinhuangdao is some kind of idyllic coastal paradise.

Hebei’s other signing is Ding Haifeng who arrives from Liaoning Whowin for the not inconsiderable fee of ¥50 million. The 24-year-old attack-minded left back had a very good 2015 and it would be no surprise to see him break into the national team in the near future.

As well as being an excellent left-footed set piece taker, Ding also proved how quick thinking he could be when he scored an infamous goal past Chongqing’s water drinking goalkeeper Sui Weijie. The price is high, but Ding’s signing could prove to be a shrewd long term investment for a newly promoted team that’s light on domestic talent.

Out: – No confirmed outgoings yet, but they are sure to come.

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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