Changchun Yatai allowed their best striker from last season to leave on a loan deal but there could be a chance he has to return to the Chinese club.
After a positive 2019 season, Zivkovic earned a loan move to English Premier League club Sheffield Wednesday, seeing him jump from the Chinese second tier to one of the best leagues in the world.
Changchun Yatai, meanwhile, worked on replacing the Dutch striker, bringing in Brazilian forward Serginho as well as Nigerian striker Aaron Olanare.
This strategy could pay dividends for the club if a 2020 season ever comes to fruition, with a strong central attack partnership needed to complement the talents of Tan Long out wide.
While the club appears perfectly happy with their pre-season business, there is a possibility that Zivkovic comes back into the picture, especially with the impact of the ongoing worldwide pandemic.
Even before the pandemic, which ultimately saw football in England paused and, in the lower tiers, curtailed, Zivkovic failed to make a single appearance for the Blades.
Manager Chris Wilder has admitted that a decision on whether or not the club would activate a ‘permanent purchase’ clause would depend on training performances rather than matches played, largely due to the club’s strong showing in the league.
But with clubs around the world suffering from the financial impact of the pandemic, some may need to be more cautious with their spending, leaving a player such as Zivkovic in an unusual situation.
Due to the lack of football he has played, with his last match coming in October 2019, he has not been able to demonstrate to other clubs what he could offer them and may find that Changchun Yatai are his best remaining option.
Changchun Yatai look to be in a stronger position to compete for promotion from China League One this season and could certainly benefit from having someone such as Zivkovic back in the picture.
The Dutch striker scored 16 goals for the club last season and having that kind of proven goalscoring in the league would put Samvel Babayan’s side in a great position to compete.
This would be difficult, however, with clubs in the second tier of Chinese football being limited to three import players in their registered squad and just two on the pitch at any time.
The logical decision from the club would be to sell the 23-year-old and recoup some of the money they have spent on other players.
However, if the market isn’t there for Zivkovic, fans could see him back in the red and yellow of the club once again in a bid to attract greater interest in his services.
With his lack of appearances in any competitive match for Sheffield United, there is an increasing likelihood that Zivkovic does not receive a contract with the English club.
Whether or not this leads him to make a return to China, where he is still under contract and has a much higher chance of playing regularly, is still to be seen.