Jackson Martinez could lead Chinese Super League foreign exodus as players look for game time ahead of 2018 World Cup
New rules from CFA further limit overseas players mean those hopeful of being picked for Russia may need to move on to ensure regular action
With the Chinese Super League further tightening its quota on its foreign legion, many overseas players who have failed to secure a regular place in their teams are likely heading out of the country before the new season begins in March.
Reports have emerged that Colombia international Jackson Martinez, who last played for champions Guangzhou Evergrande 14 months ago, may join Turkish Super League club Besiktas.
The 31-year-old forward cost the Chinese heavyweights €42 million (HK$392 million) when joining from La Liga side Atletico Madrid in 2016, once an Asian club record transfer fee. However, Martinez has since made only 10 appearances and scored a mere four goals.
The South American missed the whole of the 2017 season after surgery on his left ankle and is eager to get first team soccer to enhance his chance of making the 2018 Russia World Cup finals squad for his country.
Besiktas, the reigning Turkish champions, are said to have been interested in Martinez since last year and their appearance in the Uefa Champions League round of 16 against Bayern Munich in February would be an added incentive to attract the player.
The Chinese governing body allows only four foreign players to be registered at one time for a Super League club next season, while it was five for 2017. Clubs can still sign up a maximum of six foreigners over the course of the 2018 season, one less than in 2017. Of the four registered players, only three of them can play at the same time and the number of foreign players on-field must be matched by the same number of domestic under-23 players.
Martinez said in a recent radio interview back home that despite signing a four-year contract in Guangzhou, he was looking for a new club after playing his first three months in China as he never wanted to leave Atletico Madrid in the first place.
With the World Cup looming, many players will want to ensure regular first team football in order to enhance their chances of being picked for Russia, even if leaving China will be temporary rather than permanent.
Shanghai Shenhua’s Giovanni Moreno has been linked with a six-month loan move to Atletico Nacional in his native Colombia. Newly appointed Nacional manager Jorge Almiron used his debut press conference to express his interest in the midfielder.
Many of the Chinese Super League clubs currently have more than four foreign players registered. Teams such as Shanghai Shenhua, Jiangsu Suning Sainty, Hebei China Fortune and Shanghai SIPG will have to deal with these excess players ahead of the new season.
Brazilian Alex Teixeira, who joined Jiangsu Suning in 2016 for a fee of €50 million – a then record transfer fee paid by a Chinese club – is reportedly struggling to get along with new coach Fabio Capello, while Shenhua also have to deal with the future of their unsettled former Argentina international Carlos Tevez.