Hulk to the rescue: could Shanghai SIPG be ready to break the bank to save Sven’s skin?
Eriksson’s men are losing ground on the league leaders as rumours swirl that SIPG are ready to break the bank to land Brazilian international
Svexit! That’s the burning issue hanging over the Chinese Super League after Shanghai SIPG dropped yet more points at home this weekend, squandering chances to put the game out of sight before allowing Tianjin TEDA to net a late equaliser. So the question is: will Sven-Goran Eriksson stay on as SIPG head coach or will he be asked to leave?
The fans voted with their feet. Some even filing out before the final whistle – which rarely happens – with others following immediately on full-time, when they would normally applaud the team on its lap of appreciation, played out to the Shanghai SIPG theme song.
The normally unflappable Swede even lost his trademark cool on Saturday, swinging his foot at a water bottle when the equaliser went in. He knows the pressure is on. His side are 12 points off Guangzhou Evergrande, who are already six points clear at the top of the table, and they are five points behind Jiangsu Suning in third place and the all important AFC Champions League spot.
It’s now no wins in five games for SIPG, including a loss to Jiangsu Suning. Both Jiangsu and second placed Hebei China Fortune FC lost this weekend, giving the perfect opportunity for the Shanghai side to gain ground but they could only manage a draw. Again.
WATCH: Highlights of Shanghai SIPG’s draw with Tianjin TEDA
The last five games have seen SIPG pick up four points. In the same period Jiangsu have taken eight and Hebei CFFC have ten, despite those losses this weekend. Five games ago those three teams were within one point of each other.
Progress into the quarter-finals of the Champions League had been seen as success enough but the dramatic dip in league form means the vultures are circling and there’s no longer any reason to assume that the current management regime will still be in charge come the first leg against South Korea’s Jeonbuk on August 23rd.
City rivals Shanghai Shenhua are just two points behind in the league table and have CSL top scorer Demba Ba enjoying a purple patch in front of goal. Beijing Guoan, whose own league form was so execrable that they sacked their manager, will be just a point behind SIPG if they can win their game in hand.
The Chinese FA Cup game against his former side Guangzhou R&F this Wednesday is now more vital than ever. A win would surely mean a stay of execution, keeping another avenue open for qualification for next season’s Champions League.
Lose and the possibilities are much darker.
There is hope, though. R&F lost to Liaoning 3-1 on Sunday. They only have one win in their last five league games and are currently in 11th place. This is a winnable game for SIPG and doing so would surely keep the wolves from Eriksson’s door for a while longer. It might even kick-start a turnaround in league form. With better finishing those draws could all have been wins in games they dominated.
And then there is also the rumoured change in playing personnel. It’s been a quiet transfer window so far – as many observers predicted it would be in comparison to the frenzy that occurred prior to the start of the season. But that prediction will be blown out of the water if one deal comes to pass: the signing of Hulk by SIPG.
Reports that the Zenit St Petersburg forward would be brought in to replace either Asamoah Gyan or Ivorian attacker Jean Evrard Kouassi appeared over the weekend in various local media outlets.
WATCH: Hulk’s greatest goals
The Oriental Sports Daily reported that talks are progressing over what would be a CSL record €55 million (HK$471.3 million) move for the current Brazil international, 5 million more than Jiangsu splashed on his countryman Alex Teixeira. Hulk is set to pocket €20 million a year in wages, which would put him among the highest paid players in the game.
Such an investment could be a sign that the SIPG owners are backing their beleaguered boss. Or it could be a signal for change in the dugout, too. Signing a player of Hulk’s stature at his peak – he turns 30 late next month – would be the biggest thing to happen in the Chinese game on the field but replacing Eriksson with an even bigger name would be a true statement of intent. If the wins don’t come in the next two games – they are away to Hebei at the weekend, watch this space.