Changchun Yatai have had a number of stalwart players over the years, but many of them were sent packing for various reasons.
Changchun were once one of the top teams in Chinese football, winning the 2007 CSL title and finishing second in 2009.
In recent years, however, the team have struggled to live up to their late 2000’s success and suffered relegation in 2018.
The club are fighting hard to return to the top flight at the first time of asking and currently sit atop the China League One table with eight games left in the season.
Had the team managed to retain a number of players that were allowed to leave the North-East, perhaps they wouldn’t have needed to be in this position.
Here are five players that Changchun Yatai should have never let go.
Lü Jianjun was a reliable right-back for Changchun Yatai for many seasons, originally joining the club frob Harbin Yiteng in 2008 before departing after the 2014 season for Henan Jianye.
Lü, who made 141 league appearances for Changchun, wasn’t the fastest right-back in the game, but he was a dedicated and determined player that worked hard every night.
Since letting Lü leave, Changchun have struggled to find an adequate replacement, with the likes of Shao Shuai, Hong King international Jack Sealy, Jiang Zhe and Xue Ya’nan all spending time at the position.
Changchun should have done more to retain Lü, who would have given them a few more solid seasons before he ultimately needed to be replaced – allowing the club more time to find a suitable long-term replacement.
Another defender that should have stayed around for longer is Wang Wanpeng, who spent 17 years at the club after joining their academy in 1997.
Wang was a reliable centre back for the North-Eastern club, playing a part in the team’s 2007 league success before departing for Dalian Yifang ahead of the 2015 season.
The Dalian native struggled with injuries throughout his time with Changchun and even missed the entire 2008 CSL season.
With the emergence of Sun Jie alongside long-time fan favourite import Anzur Ismailov, Wang found himself surplus to requirements.
The club should have kept him around, however, as the club’s centre back depth has lacked greatly for a number of seasons.
Sun Jie and Yu Rui now form a strong all-Chinese partnership in the middle, but for many seasons the team had very few options outside of the starting two.
Pei Shuai looked to be the heir apparent to Wang Wanpeng, but found himself often pushed up into a central defensive midfielder role that left the team thin at the back.
Szabolcs Huszti (The First Time)
Hungarian international Szabolcs Huszti became a fan favourite in the North-East from day one, playing a silky attacking style that the team had been lacking.
His control of the ball saw him make threatening runs every game and saw him become a key contributor in attack when the team had the likes of Fatos Beciraj as a striker.
After originally joining halfway through the 2014 season, Huszti spent 18 months in China before heading to Germany, joining Frankfurt Eintracht in January 2015.
Changchun Yatai failed to truly replace Huszti in the 2016 season. While Marcelo Martins Moreno served as an exceptional striker option, all midfield and alternative attacking options failed to impress.
After spending 18 months with Frankfurt, Huszti returned to Changchun to try and breathe life back into the club in the second half of the 2017 season – helping to guide the team to an impressive seventh-place finish.
Huszti left at the end of the season again, however, and the club suffered relegation just one year later.
One of the most popular players in the club’s history, selling Wang Dong to Chongqing Lifan is something that Changchun Yatai fans still haven’t quite forgotten.
Wang was a stalwart in the heart of the midfield, scoring 69 goals in 251 league games while playing in the North-East.
His final season saw Wang fall out of favour at the club and even saw the veteran midfielder sent down to Shangdong Tengding in China League Two on loan.
After leaving the club in a ¥3,500,000 transfer, Wang scored an impressive 16 goals in 29 China League One appearances, leading the club to the Chinese Super League.
He continued to play an influential role for the club for another two seasons before spending another season in the CSL with Tianjin TEDA.
While Changchun Yatai have had some decent central midfield players, with Yan Feng taking on the role left by Wang for many years, Wang Dong’s influence and connection to the team and the fanbase was a huge loss for the club.
A true club legend, Du Zhenyu retired from playing after the 2018 CSL season, spending the final few years back with Changchun Yatai.
But his tenure with the club, which originally began in 2001, should have seen him retire as a one-man club.
The talented winger, who was instrumental to the club’s 2007 league success, fell out of favour during the 2012 season after the emergence of Liu Weidong.
With Liu seemingly preferred over the veteran, Du Zhenyu was loaned out to Tianjia TEDA for the second half of the season.
At the end of the season, Du made the transfer permanent – spending the next two seasons playing in Tianjin.
Unsurprisingly, Liu Weidong failed to live up to the same standard as his predecessor and made just 33 more appearances after Du left on a permanent transfer.
The club’s talisman and arguably greatest ever player returned in 2015, forcing Liu to transfer to Chongqing on a loan deal before he himself left permanently the following season.
Fans were delighted to see Du Zhenyu return and finish his career with the club, but the way he was originally forced to leave the club after so many years is still something that should never have happened.