Evergrande celebrate Chinese league championship
CHINESE champions Guangzhou Evergrande notched their record sixth league title in a row with a 4-0 demolition of Shandong Luneng, but an expert warned their dominance risked dimming interest in the league.
Evergrande, led by former Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, whose contract was extended after the team sealed the title with two games to spare, were crowned in a lavish ceremony in front of more than 42,000 fans at their Tianhe Stadium after their final game on October 30.
A slew of dazzling big money signings this year by top clubs in the Chinese Super League (CSL), such as Shanghai SIPG’s capture of Brazilian forward Hulk for a reported 55 million euro (US$60 million), and Jiangsu Suning’s 50 million euro acquisition of his compatriot Alex Teixeira, put a spotlight on the tournament.
Average crowds over the season reached an all-time high of 24,171.
But Mark Dreyer, founder of China Sports Insider, a website monitoring sporting trends in the country, warned that Evergrande’s record-breaking run was bad for the league overall.
“It’s a definite worry that Evergrande are becoming too dominant. There’s numerous examples where if you have any league in which one club is dominant it becomes easy to dismiss,” he said.
Given the limits on the number of foreign players that clubs can have in their squad, other teams should concentrate on longer-term development rather than signing big names to challenge Evergrande, he said.
“I’d like to see the focus shift to less glamorous areas like infrastructure, youth team and so on, but that doesn’t get the headlines like signing [Graziano] Pelle does,” he said, referencing Shandong Luneng’s capture of the Italian international striker in July.
Elsewhere in the CSL, Jiangsu Suning finished runners-up despite a 1-0 defeat away to Liaoning, and Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Shanghai SIPG finished third with a 3-1 victory over Hebei China Fortune, managed by former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini.
Shanghai Shenhua went down 1-0 away to Changchun Yatai but finished fourth, clinching the last available AFC Champions League spot for next season.
Changchun’s victory was their fourth in succession and saw them avoid relegation from the 16-team league at the expense of Hangzhou Greentown, who could only draw 2-2 with Yanbian Funde.
Greentown, who had Tim Cahill on their books before the Australian’s departure in July, ended their 10-year stay in the CSL to jeers and boos from the home fans, many of whom sobbed as the final whistle blew and news of Changchun’s victory broke.
Shijiazhuang Ever Bright were also relegated. –
Fans cheer Guangzhou Evergrande during an AFC Champions League 2016 group stage match against Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds on April 5.