Stringent rules did not stop the Chinese Super League’s clubs from completing a number of exciting signings this winter.
After enormous sums were previously spent on the likes of Brazil stars Oscar and Hulk, a 100-per-cent tax on foreign players bought for fees more than $6.9 million was imposed last June by the Chinese Football Association.
Yet, by the close of the pre-season window on Wednesday night, several eye-catching moves were made by the division’s 16 outfits. This means Friday’s big kick-off for 2018 will feature some massive new names.
Here, we pick out our top-five foreign buys:
New club: Dalian Yifang
Bought from: Atletico Madrid
Transfer fee: €30m (Dh135m)
Eyebrows were raised this week when the promoted Blue Hawks raided Atletico for wingers Carrasco and Nicolas Gaitan.
Monday’s recruitment of the former was by far the most-exciting deal.
Inconsistent form by the Belgium wide man and reported disagreements with head coach Diego Simeone, plus several of his team-mates, saw him handed just eight La Liga starts in 2017/18. Yet we are talking about a 24-year-old regular squad member for Belgium who should feature in this summer’s World Cup and previously scored during defeat in 2016/17’s Champions League final to rivals Real Madrid.
Yifang won China League One last term and have been prepared to take a huge hit because of the transfer laws to recruit the aforementioned pair. They’ve also added veteran Portugal centre-back Jose Fonte from West Ham.
Carrasco has all the ability to become the competition’s finest player. With European outfits such as Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Juventus already rumoured by Mundo Deportivo to be eagerly watching his progress, he should get a first taste of action at big-spending Shanghai SIPG on Saturday.
New club: Beijing Guoan
Bought from: Villarreal
Transfer fee: €37 million (Dh166.5m)
Africa, finally, has a new holder of it’s most-expensive-footballer title.
The deal to bring Bakambu to China has been the story of this transfer window. Guoan, who finished a disappointing ninth last term, initially agreed to meet his release clause in January, yet attempts to circumvent the regulations rumbled on until this midweek when he was finally announced as their player at a total cost estimated at $90m.
They will now hope the Democratic Republic of Congo forward, 26, was worth all the bother – their colossal investment beats Arsenal’s in Gabon superstar Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
He certainly comes with some pedigree. During two-and-a-half seasons in La Liga, Bakambu netted 32 goals in 72 appearances and became the only African ever to receive the division’s Player of the Month-award.
The ex-Sochaux and Bursaspor attacker will hope from this Sunday at Shandong Luneng to feed off an impressive creative department, manned by fellow new boy Jonathan Viera and Brazil starter Renato Augusto.
New club: Hebei China Fortune
Bought from: Barcelona
Transfer fee: €5.5m (Dh24.8m)
After 334 appearances and 17 major trophies, the Argentina defensive midfielder finally bid an emotional farewell to Barca this January.
He joins a side manned by ex-Real Madrid and Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who kick-started his remarkable career by handing him a debut at River Plate all the way back in 2003. Now an experienced hand aged 33-years old and with 141 international caps earned, a huge impact is expected.
Los Albiceleste team-mate Ezequiel Lavezzi will also help his integration to life in Langfang. Plus, a central-midfield partnership with returning ex-Brazil international Hernanes should be formidable.
Hebei finished fourth last term and Mascherano will lead their charge towards even better times, beginning with Saturday’s trip to Tianjin TEDA.
New club: Beijing Guoan
Bought from: Las Palmas
Transfer fee: €11m (Dh49.5m)
The riches on offer in China can prove hard to turn down.
Viera earned his first – and only – cap for Spain last October. But a life-changing contract at Guoan was irresistible to him, no matter the negative impact it may have on slim hopes of making World Cup 2018.
The 28-year-old will be expected to share the creative burden with Augusto. Ammunition will need to be provided for Spanish striker Jonathan Soriano and Bakambu – who has also been recruited from La Liga this winter.
He leaves behind a relegation battle with Las Palmas, for whom he registered a creditable three goals and four assists this term. Over three spells with the islanders, he notched 44 times in 171 league appearances.
Guoan will demand an even-better return.
New club: Beijing Renhe
Bought from: Atletico Madrid
Transfer fee: €4.5m (Dh20.3m)
The rigours of overcoming a serious knee injury saw the 31-year-old Argentina centre midfielder seek out a fresh start in the Far East.
Fernandez was waylaid in September 2016 with damage incurred to his ACL during a 1-0 triumph against Deportivo la Coruna. The fierce competition in the Atleti ranks made a return to prominence for the man signed from Celta Vigo the preceding January almost impossible, only five run-outs in the Spanish top flight following this term.
Spaniard Luis Garcia – also formerly of the Arabian Gulf League’s Bani Yas – was fully aware of Fernandez’s talents and is convinced he can still be an influential figure for his promoted capital outfit.
A relegation battle is sure to follow for Renhe. It is up to Fernandez to drag them through, beginning with Saturday’s journey to Chongqing Dangdai Lifan.
Mascherano, 33, bid farewell to Barcelona this January after 334 appearances and 17 major trophies and joined Hebei China Fortune.
This decision to exit European football has led to suggestions he may fall out of favour for head coach Jorge Sampaoli’s Los Albiceleste. But the 141-times-capped star revealed he’s received assurances that this will not be the case.
“I hadn’t spoken to Jorge Sampaoli when I decided to come to China but I did meet him later,” said Mascherano. “I told him I wanted to play in the midfield position which was more familiar with me.
“If I play good enough in China I will be able to play for the national team.”
Mascherano could make his competitive debut for Hebei on Saturday at Tianjin TEDA in the 2018 CSL’s opening round.
Video provided by SNTV/AP
As if losing Neymar wasn’t bad enough, Paris Saint-Germain‘s hopes of overturning their 3-1 Champions League deficit to Real Madrid took another blow on Wednesday when striker Kylian Mbappe picked up an ankle injury in the 3-0 Coupe de France quarter-final win over Marseille.
“Kylian Mbappe injured his ankle. He asked not to play the second half. I hope that it’s not too serious,” said PSG coach Unai Emery, whose team host Real in Paris on Tuesday in the second leg of their last-16 tie.
Earlier Wednesday, it was revealed that Brazilian superstar Neymar will undergo surgery on his fractured foot in Brazil at the end of this week, ruling the world’s most expensive footballer out of the do-or-die duel with Real.
The 26-year-old suffered a hairline fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot as well as a twisted ankle late in PSG’s 3-0 win over Marseille in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
Provided by AFP Sport