The revolving door: New recruit Hulk nets on Shanghai SIPG debut as fellow Chinese Super League clubs continue to splash the cash
The Brazilian scored eight minutes into his first start against Henan Jianye only to be stretchered off as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side eased to a 5-0 win
Asian record signing Hulk made his Chinese Super League debut this weekend and it was incredible in the truest sense of the word.
Shanghai SIPG’s new number eight scored eight minutes into his first start, but was subsequently stretchered off, playing no further part in what turned into a 5-0 rout of Henan Jianye for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side.
The US$ 61 million man is reported to have gone for scans after hobbling away from the stadium and it appears he will likely miss next weekend’s Shanghai derby where SIPG cross town to visit Shanghai Shenhua.
SIPG will be without Hulk and playmaker Dario Conca for a game where a win would put them eight points clear of the Blue Devils and in pole position to qualify for next season’s AFC Champions League.
After the madness of pre-season this was supposed to be a quiet transfer window. That’s far from being the case with the revolving door that is the Super League and every club, from top to bottom, is involved.
Guanghzou R&F paid an Israeli record fee for Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Eran Zahavi, last season’s Israeli Premier League top scorer and Beijing Guoan sealed a loan deal for Uzbekistan forward Igor Sergeev.
Changchun Yatai also signed former Bruno Meneghel from J.League side Cerezo Osaka and former Serbia Under-21 winger Mislav Orsic from K-League side Jeonnam Dragons.
Even Liaoning Whowin, hardly known for splashing the cash, are getting in on the act. They signed Nigerian striker Anthony Ujah from Werder Bremen for €13m (HK$ 111.23m) and he scored the winner on his debut.
Elsewhere, in the biggest move after Hulk’s, Shandong Luneng have picked up Papiss Cisse from Newcastle United. The Senegalese striker watched his new teammates come from behind to beat Jiangsu Suning thanks to a brace from Walter Montillo and claw themselves off the foot of the table on goal difference.
It seems that Cisse will take Aloisio’s spot in the squad as the Brazilian has apparently joined Hebei China Fortune for the rest of the season as a replacement for Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi who broke his elbow in the Copa America semi final last month.
And Cisse might yet be joined by Graziano Pelle in Jinan. The Italy international is set to leave Southampton for the Super League in a £13m (HK$ 130.3m) deal and Shandong appears to be his most likely destination after Hebei denied interest.
Shandong have been busy this window. Aside from nearly sealing a deal for Austria winger Martin Harnik only for it to break down following the player’s medical, the struggling side sold Chinese national team midfielder Zhang Wenzhao to league leaders Guangzhou Evergrande.
Guangzhou , who extended their lead at the top of the table to 10 points with a 4-1 win over Changchun Yatai, saw former Asian record signing Jackson Martinez leave South China. The Colombian hitman has had an injury-plagued campaign with the defending champions and has been linked with a move to Juventus, something his agent has called a “fantastic option.”
That means Guangzhou have a spot open in their squad for a foreigner and the riches to buy who they want, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will act to fill it before the Chinese summer transfer window shuts on Friday.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the team are flying high yet again and Alan’s return from injury at the start of this season is almost like a new signing. Secondly, Guangzhou , like all clubs in the Super League sides will soon need to cut one foreigner anyway.
Last month it was reported that the Chinese Football Association (CFA) have been discussing a change from the current 4+1 rule – four foreign players plus another who is from a fellow Asian Football Confederation nation – which has been in place since 2009 to 3+1, which would be in line with the current AFC Champions League rule.
Nothing is official yet, and it was only recently that the CFA were pondering increasing rather than decreasing the quota of foreigners, but it is believed that next season will be a period of transition for Super League teams and the rule will come into effect from the 2018 campaign.
What would such a rule change actually mean? Given that most of the foreign imports are attackers, more Chinese forwards would get a chance to play. That’s something that desperately needs to happen in order for them to improve.
Currently only three of the 15 top scorers in the Super League are Chinese and the highest placed of those, Hebei’s Dong Xuesheng in fifth, has half of top scorer Demba Ba’s 14 goals.
The other thing that would happen is it would consolidate Guangzhou’s dominance. The five-time winners have stockpiled the best Chinese players and would be expected to win the league.
Until that point, though, the Super League’s revolving door is going to keep spinning and as Eric Gao, the promoter of the International Champions Cup that is bringing Manchester City, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund to China at the end of this month, said recently, no player is out of reach for Chinese clubs.
That’s why it is impossible to dismiss any transfer rumour involving a Super League club. Yaya Toure to get £500,000 (HK$ 5m) a week? Believable.
N’Golo Kante to sign for Shanghai SIPG for £35m (HK$350.83m), even if his reported buy-out clause is said to be closer to £20m (HK$ 200.47m)? Stranger things have happened.
Lukas Podolski and Robin Van Persie to leave Istanbul for China? Honestly, who knows what is clickbait and what is informed transfer gossip when it comes to the gold rush that is Chinese football.
One thing as certain as Guangzhou retaining their title, it’s going to be an interesting few days.