Changchun Yatai have finalised their first-team squad and unveiled their new home shirt ahead of their return to the Chinese Super League next week.
Winners of the 2007 Chinese Super League, Changchun Yatai have been absent from the Chinese top tier over the past two seasons, plying their trade in China League One after suffering a shock relegation back in 2018.
Since dropping down a level, Changchun have gone through a number of changes to their squad, seeing a number of players and even managers come and go in their hunt to return to the top league in the country.
After Uzbek manager Samvel Babayan had the team charging towards the second tier title, Chen Yang stepped in and finished off the job – seeing the club go unbeaten in the promotion round of the 2020 competition with some dominating performances.
Now, their attentions turn to remaining in the CSL when all is said and done by the end of the 2021 season, with their finalised first-team squad looking competitive at both ends of the pitch.
Important Signings Made
Changchun Yatai needed to make some additions to their China League One-roster, and have brought in some truly deadly firepower up top as well as an impressive defensive addition that should sure the team up in their return.
The most notable signing this off-season has been the arrivals of Brazilian forwards Erik Lima and Júnior Negrão, both of whom bring with them plenty of experience in Asian football.
Erik recently played in the J-League with Yokohama F. Marinos, where he registered 21 goals in 41 league appearances over the past two seasons.
Negrão, meanwhile, has been one of the most recognisable players in Asian football over the past half-decade, starting with a fruitful spell in Thai League 1 before a move to the K-League.
During his time in South Korea, Negrão earned Best XI honours in each of the past three seasons, finishing as top scorer in both the K-League and Asian Champions League in 2020, where he helped Ulsan Hyundai claim their second-ever continental title.
Along with fellow countryman Serginho, Erik and Negrão could create a formidable offensive front for Chen Yang, with veteran Chinese international Tan Long also likely to play an important role.
The team’s defence has also been bolstered with the arrival of Danish centre-back Jores Okore, who has had a successful time in his home country as well as a brief stint with Aston Villa in the English Premier League.
Along with the 28-year-old former international, Changchun Yatai also see the return of Jiang Zhe, who was a part of the original exodus when the club were relegated two years ago.
Jiang Zhe will likely take up his starting role at right back for the club, helping to give Chen Yang a CSL-worthy back line along with Rao Weihui and team captain Sun Jie returning from last season.
While the team’s latest signings, which also includes the likes of Hui Jiakang, Zhang Yufeng and Wang Pang, the club have a number of important players returning.
Most notable of players that Changchun Yatai likely did not expect to have this season, is Dutch striker Richairo Zivkovic.
Zivkovic had a strong season in Changchun during the 2019 China League One campaign, scoring 15 goals in 25 league matches, which resulted in him earning a loan to Premier League club Sheffield United before a return to China with Guangzhou City (formerly R&F).
It looked as if the Dutchman would be sold to accommodate Changchun’s newest additions, but his performances in pre-season have seen him ultimately remain with the club, with a chance to have an impressive season in the top flight before his deal expires in December.
With Zivkovic added to the mix, Changchun Yatai have a number of options up front that could help them have a positive return to the Chinese Super League, where scoring frequently will be crucial to their chances of survival.
Changchun Yatai have retained the core of a team that dominated in the second tier last season, and have made signings that truly have them shaping up to be a competitive team once again in the CSL.
The team’s midfield, which has recently lost Lucas Souza on loan to Beijing Guoan, will be the biggest area for concern for the team, who will rely on Chen Po-Liang, Zhang Li and Dilyimit Tudi to hold firm against much tougher opposition than they faced last season.
Avoiding relegation will be the main aim for the team, but its construction and Chen Yang’s style of play should have them competing much further up the table.
While they will not compete with the likes of Beijing Guoan, Guangzhou FC or Shanghai Port, they will certainly be the pick of the bunch around mid-table and a finish around eighth would be an exceptional accomplishment at the first time of asking.