Drogba to Gyan: Chinese Super League's biggest imports

Sport360 staff 00:41 28/07/2015
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From Marcello Lippi to Anelka, some of the CSL's great foreign additions.

As the Chinese Super League continues to build a sports industry in Asia, here's a look at some of the biggest names to play or coach in one of the world's burgeoning competitions.

NICOLAS ANELKA

Club: Shanghai Shenhua (2012-13)

Position: Striker

Anelka endured a poor time in China, scoring just three goals in 22 games. Was part of an awful Shenhua outfit, even joining struggling coach Jean Tigana’s staff. Departed permanently to West Bromwich Albion, via a loan to Juventus.

DARIO CONCA
Clubs: Guangzhou Evergrande (2011-13), Shanghai SIPG (2015-) 
Position: Playmaker 

Rose to significance in Asia, becoming world’s third highest- paid player. Departed for Fluminense as an AFC Champions League winner, soon moving back to Shanghai SIPG.

DIDIER DROGBA
Club: Shanghai Shenhua (2012-13)
Position: Striker

Proved a much-bigger success than Anelka when he followed his team-mate’s path from Chelsea to Shanghai. Scored eight in 11 appearances, yet left in anger for Turkey’s Galatasaray in January 2013 after claiming unpaid wages.

SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON
Clubs: Guangzhou R&F (2013-14), Shanghai SIPG (2014-)
Position: Head coach 

Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The former England boss is making a fine impression in China. Made his first stop at R&F in 2013, departing after finishing third in his only full season in charge. Currently, sits second in CSL table at big-spending SIPG.

ASAMOAH GYAN
Club: Shanghai SIPG (2015-)
Position: Striker

Departed Al Ain earlier this month as both a hero and the player with the biggest transfer fee in Asian history, 20 million (Dh81m) being paid. The Ghana skipper proved an instant success in the Chinese Super League, scoring winner on debut against Tianjin Teda.

SEYDOU KEITA 
Club: Dalian Aerbin (2012-13)
Position: Midfielder

Seydou Keita.

After winning nearly every club trophy possible at Barcelona, departed in 2012 for an enormous deal at Dalian. Was tasked with saving club from relegation, which he duly did. Left for Valencia in January 2014.

MARCELLO LIPPI
Club: Guangzhou Evergrande (2012-15)
Position: Head coach / Director of football 

Marcello Lippi.

World Cup winner proved class with 2013 AFC Champions League win. Also claimed three CSL titles in a row before moving upstairs to make way for Fabio Cannavaro in 2014.

MURIQUI
Club: Guangzhou Evergrande (2010-14)
Position: Forward 

The Brazilian is one of the least-well-known names on this list, but his arrival for a record $3.5m in 2010 heralded a new era. Scored 52 times in 92 CSL games, winning seven major trophies before departing for Qatar’s Al Sadd in 2014.

ROBINHO
Club: Guangzhou Evergrande (2015-)
Position: Forward 

The latest star to join the CSL, Robinho is expected to add ingenuity and Brazilian flair to the Southern China Tigers. Has inked a six-month contract worth 1m (Dh4m) per month, joining a number of his compatriots in Guangzhou. 

LUIZ FELIPE SCOLARI 
Club: Guangzhou Evergrande (2015-)
Position: Head coach

Luis Felipe Scolari.

Big Phil’ was a ruthless appointment by Evergrande, replacing Cannavaro with the team top of the table and into the ACL quarter-finals. Has quickly put Brazilian mark on squad, snapping up forward Robinho and midfielder Paulinho.

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#360USA: Gold Cup wipes away the shine from Jurgen Klinsmann

Steve Brenner 11:37 27/07/2015
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Klinsmann has boosted popularity of soccer in the US.

The knives are out for Jurgen Klinsmann yet the German will not be overly perturbed.

Fans in the United States have called for his head after the shock Gold Cup semi-final defeat to Jamaica on Wednesday. ESPN ran front page stories on its website heavily criticising the former Tottenham and Inter Milan striker who now resides in California. 

Saturday night’s third place play-off defeat to Panama on penalties has darkened the mood even further. The Gold Cup, a kind of B-list European championships, may not appear a big deal. The US thumped Cuba in the quarter-finals of a tournament which captain Michael Bradley has, albeit warmly, described as ‘ridiculous’.

The likes of Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti have all made up the numbers. Yet with a ticket into the Confederations Cup in 2017 staged in Russia a prize, retaining the title was the aim.

It’s a tournament eyed by Klinsmann as ideal preparation for the following summer’s World Cup on the very same shores. Luckily for him, having won the Gold Cup in 2013, the US can save themselves in a one-off match with the champions for a chance to join the party next summer.

For large swathes of American soccer fans, the greatest tournament on earth remains the holy grail. The sight of the women’s national team welcomed home as superstar heroines following their triumph in Canada earlier this month has certainly upped the ante for the men.

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But Klinsmann will look at the furore surrounding the desperate defeat to the ‘Reggae Boyz’ with a wry smile. One of the edicts laid down when given the job in 2011 was to promote the game and boost its popularity. MLS has made major strides in establishing soccer in the United States. The national team however is the goose which scores the golden goal.

Simply look back at the coverage of the US team’s push in Brazil last summer and you will get the picture. The reaction over the past week is a stark indicator to Klinsmann that people really do care. A few years ago, such a defeat would have just been a ripple in the vast ocean that is the US sports scene.

Now, however, there is a national debate. US Soccer chief Sunil Gulati, a man petrified of his own shadow at present, wouldn’t say it publicly. Yet those who stride the corridors of power will note the strength of feeling which will only grow threefold by the time Russia 2018 rolls around.

There is little appetite for change. The German received a new contract before last summer’s trip to Brazil and his experience at the highest level is something no American coach can counter.

Going out in the first knock-out round was a kick in the teeth but it was enough to satisfy those above him that the future was bright.

He is a big name, been there, seen it, done it. His former German national team Joachim Lowe may have received most of the credit when Klinsmann managed his country yet his work in the US has seen the game progress rapidly.

That’s not to say he’s perfect. Some contentious selection decisions backfired on Klinsmann. He has a tendency to prefer experience over youth yet a painfully weak backline devoid of gravitas ultimately cost him dear.

For example, there was much headscratching over the inclusion of Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks, at the expense of Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream. To see such details being analysed does illustrate just how far the game has grown. Some believe, the axe should fall, especially when looking back in time. Bob Bradley, Klinsmann’s predecessor was fired after losing the Gold Cup final in 2011.

“This was an unmitigated failure, a failure on Jurgen Klinsmann’s record,” said former US defender Alexi Lalas. “Now, are there going to be recriminations?

Is Jurgen Klinsmann the right person to lead this team?” The plain stats following the aberration in Atlanta don’t make for happy reading. You have to trawl all the way back to 1969 and a match against Haiti to find the last time US team lost to a Caribbean nation on home soil. And, more painfully, this is the first time since 2003 that the US have failed to make the Gold Cup final. On-field progress has certainly been stunted. Yet the bigger picture remains rosy. 

It won’t be long before soccer earns a far more equal footing alongside the behemoths of NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. The beautiful game will never eclipse them, though undeniably, the country’s sporting consciousness is altering.

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