After making very few signings in 2018, Guangzhou R&F have already made some eye-catching moves in 2019. Mousa Dembele and co are now in Australia for preseason training.
After watching CSL rivals sign big name stars over the past few seasons, R&F have finally got in on the act. Mousa Dembélé is the highest profile arrival in China during the transfer window to date. Heavily linked with Beijing Guoan, Dembele ended up swapping north London for south China. The 31 year moved for a reported £11m fee and has been given a 3 year contract.
Since Yakubu left in 2013, the Cantonese have tended to fill their foreign quota by buying from other Asian leagues or leagues outside Europe’s ‘top 5.’ Whilst this has included some very good players – notably Hamdallah and Zahavi – there is an extra buzz about Dembele’s signing. Although he is 31, arguably no player has arrived at Yuexiushan with such high expectations on his shoulders. He will go straight into the starting eleven and, hopefully, become a key player.
Demeble will be joined by Israeli midfielder Dia Saba who clearly fits the mould of R&F signing less heralded foreigners. This isn’t to say he is a bad player though. On the contrary, the 26 year old has made over 150 appearances in the Israeli top division. He broke into the national team last autumn where he met goal machine Eran Zahavi. The two will link up at Yuexiushan for the 2019 CSL.
Guangzhou R&F’s pair of Brazilian midfielders will make way for the two new signings. Junior Urso has already moved to Corinthians, and Renatinho will also be looking for a new club. With their departure, all four of R&F’s foreigners and manager are from UEFA nations.
Renatinho’s creativity will be missed. As will those 25 yard freekicks where you just knew he was going to score. Even if the game was going badly and he’d missed an earlier chance, there was still a feeling that Rentinho would do it. He often did. Only Zahavi has scored more goals for R&F than the diminutive Brazilian. Rentainho’s 3.5 seasons at Yuexiushan also make him R&F’s joint-longest serving foreigner with Jang Hyun-soo. Rentainho made more appearances than the South Korean though.
The Cantonese have also used three of their domestic transfer slots, although sadly not on defenders. It appears the ‘you score three, we’ll score four’ approach will continue at Yuexiushan in 2019.
These most recent of the forward thinking additions is ethnic Korean Jin Bo. The 26 year old winger makes the move south after six seasons with Yanbian.
He’ll be joined by Guizhou legend Fan Yunlong. Apart from a brief spell of pre-season training with the team then known as Shanghai East Asia, Fan has spent his entire career in his home province. The 29 year old midfielder clocked up over 150 appearances for Guizhou teams in China Leagues One, Two and the CSL. He finally leaves after Guizhou were relegated from the CSL last year, a campaign in which he was a regular.
Meanwhile, forward Gui Hong has arrived on a four year deal from Hebei. Gui was a bit part player at Hebei, never playing more than 10 games in a season. The majority of those were as a sub. He did play for China U20 and U23 though, and at 6ft tall could be a replacement for the ageing Xiao Zhi.
Red stars over Guangzhou
Yuexiushan is fast turning into an old boys club for ex-Red Star Belgrade players. Manager Stojković and 34 year old centre back Duško Tošić both played there, and three coaches with Red Star connections have now joined them.
The first is Stojković’s old Red Star teammate Slobodan Marović. Marovic stayed at Red Star for a year longer than Stojković and was on the winning side when his Red Star met Stojković’s Marseille in the final of the European Cup. Marovic ended his playing career in China with Shenzhen in 1997 but doesn’t have much coaching experience. He’ll be joined by Bratislav Živković, another ex-Red Star player but one with more coaching experience. Both Marović and Živković were defenders so hopefully will be able to stiffen R&F’s back line.
Completing the trio is Darko Buser who also used to play for…Red Star Belgrade! Admittedly this was only for the U10s though. His senior career was cut short through a combination of the Yugoslavian civil war and a knee injury. Buser then developed as a coach at Chelsea and now has responsibility for R&F’s reserves.
These arrivals means that old assistant coach Dejan Govedarica is no longer with R&F. They also suggest that Stojković will be sticking around for the foreseeable future.
For the fourth year in a row, the Cantonese are playing warm-up matches in Australia. Scheduled opponents are the Central Coast Mariners, Rockdale City Spurs, Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney Olympic.
Stojković selected a squad of 27 players, including those who’d been away with various national squads. Xiao Zhi scored at the Asian Cup and rejoins his R&F teammates. Huang Zhengyu is back from the Olympic squad, whilst Ding Haifeng and Chang Feiya have finished the military training camp. Ye Chugui also linked up with the R&F squad again after his loan spell in Shenzhen ended.
The CSL fixtures have been released unusually early. The Cantonese open up the 2019 season away to Chongqing on March 2nd, and then host Dalian on Saturday 9th. New CSL champions Shanghai SIPG are scheduled to visit Yuexisuhan on 12th August.
This year R&F fans have two provincial derbies to look forward to: the Canton Derby against Evergrande and the new Pearl River derby against Shenzhen. The key dates as scheduled at the time of writing were: 6th April Evergrande away, 26th April Shenzhen at home, 20th July Evergrande at home, and 7th August Shenzhen away.
Thanks to some excessively long breaks for World Cup qualifying, the season won’t end until December. R&F’s last home game is against Beijing Guoan on 27th November, and they end their season away to Henan on 1st December.
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