And so begins season 3.0 of the Suning project. Hope springs eternal from the bowels of the benevolent aqueduct connecting Nanjing to Milan.
The growth of Suning’s ‘Italian project’ has the tinny ring of a boardroom fantasy. It’s all trimmings; the suave pair of glasses masquerading as Fabio Capello, donning the stripes of three time European champions Inter Milan, signing a veteran Italian defender, Gabriel Paletta, who at a squint seems a copy of Giorgio Chiellini’s copy. None of this makes Jiangsu infinitesimally better at football.
It’s little like watching a B-rate mafia drama movie set somewhere in New Jersey, with the requisite Chrysler building backdrop, in which the protagonist looks like Robert De Niro but only from longshots across the pizzeria.
As with other Chinese Super League (CSL) clubs, it’s hard to know exactly where attention should be focused. Suning started with a name change, rejigged the logo in year two, and now the colours. Relocation, surely, comes next. Rumour has it Chengdu could do with a tier one side.
Which is all a longwinded way of acknowledging that Jiangsu won its first game of the 2018 CSL season, a 3-1 against Guizhou Zhicheng.
In truth, watching Jiangsu take to the field in Guizhou sporting the stripes of Inter Milan was all part of the comedy, an art that so often rests in the crevices between something serious and something not.
Comedy, Suning-style. The reality, for example, of attending home games at the state-of-the-art Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre only to find concession stands staffed by entrepreneurial students who retrieve family size Coca-Cola bottles from supermarket bags and sell cups at 10 yuan a pour.
The notion, say, that Fabio Capello, known to have a philosophical tome or two lurking on the bedside table, finds a gander through Nanjing Museum’s Ming Dynasty ceramics collection as compelling as a Sunday afternoon trip to some remote corner of China.
Nowhere is the absurdity of such parallelism clearer than in the sugar-drop feet of Alex Teixeira. A hand spasm away from signing for Liverpool in Jan 2016, little imagination is required to see the Brazilian comparing neck tattoos with Roberto Firmino or educating the Anfield massive on the correct pronunciation of the Portuguese letter ‘x’.
Instead, the parallel universe Premier League footballer found himself in Guiyang, the capital of southwestern Guizhou famed for its cured ox horns and distinctive ethnic diversity, playing out the season opener. And, boy, what a delight Teixeira was.
In the waning months of the 2017 season, as Jiangsu staggered drunkenly around the relegation zone, one imagines Teixeira dreamt of rousing Kop applause as he ambled through defeats in Changchun and Hebei.
Against Guizhou he boasted a precocious ability to hug the sideline. He made one question the composition of his explosive pair of calves. He scored a goal in both halves, each with singular flair.
The first, a long range shot in which his lower body cavorts like a tennis player serving up an ace. The second, a gleeful skip around the goal keeper and then the cheek to dribble right up to the goal line. You almost thought he’d take a knee and head the ball in. And in that, he reminded you he was Brazilian.
A great many conclusions can be drawn from 90 minutes of football. Nothing of the sort is appropriate in the wake of a 3-1 win over the plucky little overachievers Guizhou. Except, perhaps, Teixeira and his rediscovery of joy.