Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Guangzhou Evergrande - Money made miracle or enemy of CSL

In his first article for Asian Football Feast, Zhang Bin looks at Guangzhou Evergrande and ponders whether they're deep pockets are good or bad for Chinese Football.

On February 21, 2010, during a series of actions against match-fixing and gambling China’s Football Association decided to relegate two teams - Guangzhou GPC and Chengdu Blades from the Chinese Super League (CSL) to China League Division 1. The charges included a series of match fixing scandals in the Division 1 matches in 2006 & 2007.

Just one year later, both clubs, Champions and Runner-Up of the Division 1, come back to the new CSL campaign.

Big changes have occurred at the Guangzhou club.

Suddenly they become the richest football club of China. Just one week after their relegation, Evergrande Real Estate Group, the biggest Real Estate Group of China, took over the club for just a fee of CNY100 million (AUD$15m). Their new chairman Xu Jiayin, Chairman of Evergrande Group, is ranked 200 in Forbes Global Wealthiest List for 2011.

Xu Jiayin said: “In the downturn of Guangzhou FC, Evergrande Group has the responsibility and obligation to help Guangzhou FC return to the peak, to let the football market of Guangzhou become hot again, to build the team for Guangzhou football fans, and to make contribution for Chinese football for a higher stage of development.”

Firstly, Evergrande invest CNY20 million (AUD$3m) into the club for paying the salaries and bonus to the players  and solving problems such as outstanding debts. They then paid big money and signed national team striker Gao Lin, former PSV Eindhoven player Sun Xiang and former Celtic player Zheng Zhi.

They paid an annual salary of CNY 5 million (AUD$750,000) to tempt famous South Korean coach Lee Jang-soo as head coach, and their signing of Atl├ętico Mineiro striker Muriqui on a four-year deal with a fee of AUD$3.5 million set a new CSL record.

It's no surprise that Guangzhou became the strongest club in 2010 China Division 1. They would win the league with 17 wins, 6 draws and only 1 loss. Gao Lin scored 20 goals and won the Golden Boot and Muriqi scored 13 goals in 14 appearances.

Zheng Zhi (L) and Sun Xiang (R) when they
signed for Guangzhou last year

On 21 July 2010, Guangzhou trounced Nanjing Yoyo 10-0, setting a new record in Chinese professional football.

Obviously the goal of the new club is not only to return to the CSL, but also to play in the AFC Champions League.

The club announced a budget of AUD$76m, transfer expenses reached AUD$18m in pre-season of CSL 2011, five Chinese national team players joined the club and the club also signed three new Brazilian players together with Cho Won-hee, who represented Korea at the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

In a warm-up match against K-League side Ulsan Hyundai, Guangzhou Evergrande won with a score of 8-0, media use the word "dreadful" to describe the team.

Thus Guangzhou Evergrande has became a phenomenon of CSL, there are a polarisation of views between fans, as well as media. Some believes it is good to see more millionaires invest in to CSL, others see it as disruptive, that Evergrande is just trying to buy success.

There are other CSL clubs owned by millionaires, like Dalian Shide's Xu Ming, Shanghai Shenhua's Zhu Jun, Hangzhou Greentown's Song Weiping, and Shaanxi Chanba's Dai Yongge.

There are other clubs owned by some of the country’s biggest companies, like Beijing Guo'an owns by CITIC Group (China International Trust and Investment Company), Shandong Luneng who are owned by SEPC Group (Shandong Electric Power Coperation) and Tianjin Teda, owned by Teda Investment Holding Co. Ltd.

The difference is none of the clubs have ever received such a huge investment, it is reported the CITIC invested  CNY 1 billion (AUD$152m) into Beijing Guo'an club since was formed 1992. That is only two times Guangzhou Evergrande's 2011 budget.

As Guangzhou, with their bags full of money, attracted a number of star players to join the team, it is reported a lot of teams have formed an "anti Evergrande Union".

Dalian Shide's boss, Xu Ming, announced if Dalian beat Guangzhou in the season's opening match, the team will get a bonus of CNY 5 million (AUD$730,000). When talking about Guangzhou, Beijing Guo'an's big mouth chairman Luo Ning told the media: “Money? You believe Xu Jiayin is richer than the whole CITIC Group? Don't talk with me about who is the richest club in CSL."

"Money could not buy experience, after three or five years of investment, Xu Jiayin will sell the club."

It will be interesting to see how Guangzhou Evergrande, which is known as the Man City of CSL by some fans, perform in CSL.

In any case, Guangzhou should take lessons from Shanxi Chanba's failure in 2010, who also spent big to sign players in pre-season, but who could only manage a tenth place finish.



  1. whatever, Xu Jiayin made China football much more interesting. This is what we football fans want to see.

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