Going, going, Gyan? Transfer rumours swirl around the CSL as Shanghai SIPG plan to clear out expensive flop
As the European leagues climax, football fans can expect no shortage of China-related transfer gossip as mega-rich CSL clubs flex their muscles
Against the odds, it has been a very successful week for Shanghai SIPG. They first overcame FC Tokyo in the second leg of their AFC Champions League round of 16 game on Tuesday and then they came away with something from a visit to the champions yesterday to keep hopes alive of a domestic league, cup and continental treble.
In Shanghai last Tuesday, a strong SIPG team left it late – Wu Lei fired in the winning goal in the 90th minute to take them through to the quarter-finals on away goals.
They were joined there by Korean sides FC Seoul and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, plus domestic rivals Shandong Luneng, who also scored at the death to proceed on away goals and keep Chinese hopes of the trophy staying in China alive.
Shanghai SIPG faced an even tougher task in the Chinese Super League when they travelled to Guangzhou Evergrande yesterday.
The champions had established a healthy lead in the first ten matches on the back of a nine-game winning streak. A win at home would have taken the champions ten points clear of the Shanghai side that ran them so close last season.
WATCH: Highlights of Guangzhou Evergrande v Shanghai SIPG
For SIPG to come away with a point, after taking the lead no less, was nothing short of remarkable. It might yet be one of those results that comes to be looked back upon as season defining. Last season’s runners-up remain in touching distance at the top of the table and no one expected that given the circumstances.
Sven-Goran Eriksson had to face the league leaders without three of his foreign stars. Pixie-like playmaker Dario Conca was suspended for the visit to his former club, top scorer Elkeson was not allowed to play as part of the deal that took him north in the last transfer window and Asamoah Gyan was injured. Again.
As it stands, Eriksson’s side might have to get used to playing without their injury-ravaged Ghanaian striker. The Black Stars captain is said to be going, going, Gyan at the next available opportunity as SIPG look to offload the striker’s multimillion dollar wages and free up one of the four non-AFC federation spots in their squad.
Who is likely to replace Gyan at Shanghai Stadium? If rumours in the city are to be believed, then it could be an even bigger name. Zenit St Petersburg’s Brazilian striker Hulk has been linked with a move to the Chinese Super League and SIPG are one of the teams that have expressed an interest in his signature.
Evergrande were reported to have offered €30 million (HK$259.1 million) for the forward earlier this season – an offer rejected out of hand by the Russian club – and Shanghai Shenhua were rumoured to have a €91 million offer turned down at around the same time. It’s clear that any deal for the former Porto forward would smash the current Chinese record.
Another candidate for SIPG is Mario Gomez. The German forward replaced Demba Ba at Turkish club Besiktas after the Senegalese striker was sold to Shanghai Shenhua. The 30-year-old has thrived in the Superlig this season finishing as top scorer and leading the club to their first Turkish title in seven years. Ba hasn’t fared too badly in Shanghai and there is no reason to think the man who outperformed him in Turkey wouldn’t do the same in China.
Tim Cahill is another name that has been mentioned, after newspapers in Australia confirmed that the Hangzhou Greentown player wants to stay in China after his contract expires.
A return to Shanghai with SIPG in one of the potential destinations but it seems unlikely given that he was overlooked when available in the last window after being released by Shanghai Shenhua.
One player that won’t be taking Gyan’s spot in the Shanghai side’s squad is Yaya Toure.
The Ivorian was reported last week to have turned down offers from both SIPG and Jiangsu Suning that would have made him the third-best paid player in the world.
Not everyone will have the resolve of the Manchester City midfielder in the face of such temptation. The lure of the sums being thrown around means that realistically, the number of players who are not interested in a move to China is dramatically smaller than those who would consider the life-changing salary.
It’s this climate that means transfer rumours, no matter how unlikely they seem at first glance, have to be taken seriously. Now the European season is finished the newspapers will have no shortage of transfer rumours to fill column inches. Jamie Vardy to the CSL, anyone?