Written by Billy Munday

Recently Chinese football has been making massive statements to the world of football by capturing the signatures of some very big names. So just in case you haven’t been following the Chinese Super League for the last few years, here is a guide to who’s who and how the league works.

Founded in 2004, the Chinese Super League consists of 16 teams and, unlike most European leagues, the season runs from February/March to November/December. The bottom 2 teams are relegated to the Chinese League One and are replaced by the 2 highest finishing teams which are promoted. Each team plays 30 games a season (each team home and away) and the top 3 teams qualify for the AFC Champions League. Whoever wins the Chinese FA Cup qualifies for the AFC Champions League as well (if the FA Cup winner finishes in the top 3, the team in 4th qualifies for the AFC Champions League too). Teams are restricted to 5 foreign players, with at least one being from the Asian Football Confederation.

Notable teams:

Most League Wins, Reigning Champions and FA Cup Holders – Guangzhou Evergrande

Guangzhou have won the Chinese Super League 6 times in its 13 seasons since 2004. The club owns some famous names such as the Brazilian and former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho and Colombian Striker, Jackson Martinez, previously of Atletico Madrid. Former players also include former Real Madrid and Manchester City attacker Robinho and Italians; Alberto Gilardino and Alessandro Diamanti. Former Chelsea player and Sunderland manager Gus Poyet is the current head coach, with Luis Felipe Scolari and Italian World Cup winning duo of Fabio Cannavaro and Marcello Lippi also previously having been at the helm.

 

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Big Spenders and 2016 Runners Up – Jiangsu Suning

Without a Chinese Super League title, Jiangsu Suning are desperate to claim one, this year they acquired the signatures of Brazilians; Ramires, Alex Teixeira (wanted by Liverpool) and Jo (remember him?) while also bringing in Australian International Trent Sainsbury to bolster their defence. The head coach is former Chelsea player Dan Petrescu. Suning finished the 2016 CSL in 2nd place, 7 points behind champions Guangzhou.

credit Ben Sutherland

2016 Third Place – Shanghai SIPG

Sven Goran Eriksen, who has been replaced with former Chelsea and Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas for the 2017 season, guided his Shanghai SIPG team to a 3rd place finish in the 2016 Chinese Super League. One notable player is Asamoah Gyan, the former Sunderland striker who scored for Ghana in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Also, new signing, Oscar, from Chelsea for a fee in the region of £60m has attracted the attention of world football, making Oscar the highest paid player in the world for a few days at least. Oscar will join fellow Brazilian Hulk, who earns £320,000 a week there.

Probably Most Well-Known – Shanghai Shenhua

This club has sparked controversy recently as it decided to terminate veteran Australian and former Everton forward Tim Cahill because he wasn’t in the manager’s plans, which is a bit bizarre as he is probably one of the best players who qualifies as a AFC foreign player. Anyway, the current squad includes former Chelsea striker, Demba Ba, Fredy Guarin, who recently joined from Inter and new signing Obafemi Martins from Seattle Sounders in the MLS. Shenhua also have the highest paid player in world football on their books, on the 29th December 2016, Carlos Tevez announced he would be moving to Shanghai from Boca Juniors, he will be paid a staggering £615,000 a week, more than Barcelona stars Neymar and Luis Suarez put together!

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Other Notable Players:

  • Hebei CFFC: Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gervinho, Stephane Mbia, Gael Kakuta
  • Beijing Guoan: Burak Yilmaz, Renato Augusto, Ralf
  • Tianjin Teda – Fredy Montero
  • Shangdong Luneng Taishan – Diego Tardelli, Graziano Pelle, Papiss Cisse
  • Lianing Whowin – Anthony Ujah

Other Notable Managers:

  • Manuel Pellegrini – Hebei China Fortune
  • Felix Magath – Shandong Luneng Taishan
Even the Chinese League One (2nd division) is attracting players such as Luis Fabiano, Jadson, Zvjezdan Misimovic, Sejad Salihovic and Nikica Jelavic, and managers such as Sven Goran Eriksen.
So just how much will the Chinese Super League grow? It may not be very long before you see a real world class player move to China if you look at what is has to offer, especially with all the money involved.
What do you make of the Chinese Super League’s Growth? Is it hurting football? Let us know in the comments below! 
featured image by Ben Sutherland