Changchun Yatai have made just one signing during the winter transfer window, but a number of players are being linked with moves to the club.
Serginho has been the only officially announced signing by Samvel Babayan, with the Brazilian attacking midfielder already impressing his new team with a goal in a recent 2-1 friendly victory over Ukrainian club Dnipro.
With Richairo Zivkovic and Yu Rui both departing the club, Babayan needs to be making moves that will give the club the very best chance at securing promotion back into the Chinese Super League in 2020.
While no official signings have been made, a number of reports and rumours have emerged regarding players joining the Northeastern club this winter.
The possible return of a fan favourite
Changchun Yatai have had many players over the years that once played a significant role at the club but moved on to achieve higher aspirations.
Sometimes players from the past have opted to return and see out the remaining years of their career at the club, much like Du Zhenyu did when he returned from Tianjin TEDA back in 2015.
According to reports on Weibo, the same could potentially happen with Guangzhou Evergrande’s Zhang Wenzhao, who is reportedly set to return to Changchun after becoming surplus to requirements in the South.
Zhang’s best years as a professional footballer came during a five-season spell with Changchun Yatai between 2009 and 2013, where he was the team’s first choice right-winger, playing on the opposite flank to Du Zhenyu.
His game evolved to see him switch over to the left side, making him a versatile player that earned six international caps with the Chinese national team, joining Shandong Luneng in 2014 and Guangzhou in 2016.
Now aged 32, Zhang Wenzhao is out of favour with the eight-time Chinese champions, spending last season on loan to Beijing Renhe, who finished the season dead last in the Super League.
With his options limited in the top tier, a move back to Changchun would work for both parties, seeing an old favourite return to the club and give them a strong partner alongside Tan Long on the wing.
The validity of this rumour is unknown. However, the club recently sent Hu Yanqiang back to Beijing Guo’an without a deal, suggesting that Zhang Wenzhao could be returning, making Hu no longer necessary.
An import striker
Richairo Zivkovic was the team’s top striker last season, scoring 16 goals and forming a stronger working partnership with top goalscorer Tan Long.
The need to replace Zivkovic is evident, with Tan Long himself having to play centrally during recent friendly matches in the absence of a true striker.
Reports have begun to emerge from a number of sources, including the Changchun Chengfeng fan group, that suggest former Sichuan United striker Aaron Olanare is set to join the club.
Olanare is a known quantity in China, having had his best years in the middle kingdom in both the Super League with Guangzhou R&F and in China League One last season with Sichuan.
During a 34-game spell with R&F, Olanare was a decent contributor with 15 goals in the Chinese top tier, but last season’s performance in the second tier is what Changchun Yatai could be hoping to receive in 2020.
With Sichuan, Olanare led the line exceptionally well, scoring 19 goals in just 27 league appearances.
With Sichuan effectively losing their license to play in China League One next season, Olanare has been left without a club and could certainly fill the void left by Zivkovic in the Northeast.
Having a tall, physical player up-front with international experience (seven caps for Nigeria) and a penchant for scoring goals regularly is something Changchun Yatai desperately need and see Olanare move to the club officially would be a positive step forward for Changchun Yatai.
The Beijing duo
Earlier in the winter period, Changchun Yatai brought in two Beijing Guo’an players, seemingly on trial.
Hu Yanqiang and Zhang Yu spent significant time with the club since January and both looked certain to join the club.
Now things look a little different, though there are still two Beijing Guo’an players currently training with Babayan’s side.
Zhang Yu has remained, playing regularly in friendly matches at centre back alongside Sun Jie. The 25-year-old is reportedly well-liked in Beijing, but just isn’t quite of the level of other centre back options at the club, forcing him to look for regular starting opportunities elsewhere.
With Yu Rui departing for Shanghai SIPG, Changchun Yatai need reinforcements at the heart of defence, with Xiao Yufeng and Li Xiaoming the only other players outside of Sun Jie available.
While Zhang Yu is looking more and more likely to officially sign with the club, Hu Yanqiang has been sent back to the capital without a deal.
As mentioned previously, this is likely due to Zhang Wenzhao’s potential move back to the Northeast.
However, Changchun are still considering another player from the Imperial Guards.
Zhang Zijian is a 22-year-old defender capable of playing at centre back and left-back, a position he has played in recent friendly matches with the club.
The young Beijing reserve player isn’t likely to make it into the Super League squad and is being allowed an opportunity to find first-team football elsewhere.
While Fan Xiaodong is still expected to be the team’s starting left-back, having a young player develop behind him for the future could be a sensible move by the club.