With China's situation improving here are the players still playing in the Super League
The outbreak of the deadly coronavirus has halted football in all major leagues and competitions across Europe. There will be no fixtures played in the English Premier League until, at least, May. This rule was put in place to limit the spread of the disease amongst football fans.
The UK government acted in a similar fashion, prime minister Boris Johnson banning all public gatherings of three or more people. The near future looks bleak and there’s no guarantees normality will return to the sport anytime soon. The May deadline could be extended if the virus continues to claim lives, government measures remaining in place.
Champions League effected
Other competitions effected by the coronavirus include Euro 2020, Champions League and the Europa League. The international football tournament – sold as a celebration of football, bringing sport to the people of Europe – has been postponed for 12 months.
UEFA are working tirelessly to find a way to finish the Champions League and Europa League in 2020. Single leg playoff matches remain an option, with these fixtures decided on neutral ground. Not ideal, but most football fans and major clubs would take what they can get at the minute.
Another option open to organisers of the top league and competitions is playing football behind closed doors, with seasons played to a conclusion in front of empty arenas. Liverpool would get the chance to win the Premier League title and clubs like Aston Villa could battle for survival. Football is nothing without fans, but everyone involved in the game must be realistic with their expectations for the rest of the season. Something is better than nothing.
Hope for the Chinese Super League
One tournament going against the grain and showing glimmers of hope is the Chinese Super League. China’s coronavirus situation is improving, according to recent media reports, and that acts as a sign there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel in this crisis, giving hope to sports fans the beautiful game will bounce back before summer.
With fixtures returning to the Chinese Super League, the competition is expected to attract larger than normal viewing figures, especially with competition from other leagues thin on the ground. The Super League may also become more appealing to TV companies eager to fill the gap left in their schedule by the Premier League and Champions League.
Followers showing a newfound love for the top tier of Chinese professional football are in for a treat as the competition boasts some of the top names in the game, including many world-famous Brazilian players. The promise of wealth and a chance to play a part in the Super League’s journey has attracted household names of football to China.
China could attract more big names
The initial outbreak of the coronavirus meant a large number of stars were reported to be desperate to find a way out of China and back to the top clubs in Europe. That’s no longer the case, according to many respected media channels.
The disease has now made Europe unsafe and there’s a threat many teams will run into financial difficulty, won’t be able to honour their TV deals or may even fail to complete the season. Also, certain newspapers tell us that although it seemed unlikely just months ago but Spain might be as currently unsafe as China. Players in the Super League are beginning to think it may be worth staying where they are and helping send Chinese sport back along the road to recovery.
Coutinho could be next
Could this lead to more top players transferring to the Chinese Super League? With the next Brazilian stars to move projected by online betting apps are now Coutinho and Willan, the excitement levels have just been raised a notch or two. Such captures would not only enhance Chinese football, it would send out a message to the watching world that sport in China is fighting back and heading in the right direction.
It is possible, of course, but any footballers attracted by the cash must keep in mind the tax on players and salary limit. This is a measure in place to restrict transfer spending. If a club pays more than 45m for a foreign player or 20m for a Chinese player, they must also pay the same amount to a youth development fund.
Hulk shows the Super League’s strength
This hasn’t stopped the big boys of Chinese football splashing the cash on foreign players, however. The biggest Brazilian star is Hulk who is currently employed by Shanghai SIPG. The 33-year-old attacker has already shown his class in the Super League, scoring 45 goals in his first 84 appearances since arriving in 2016. The samba scorer moved from Zenit in a deal worth £45m which was an Asian football record when completed.
Other top players currently playing in the Chinese Super League include Renato Augusto and Ralf of Beijing Guoan, Marinho and Bruno Meneghel of Changchun Yatai and Fernandinho and Alan Kadec of Chongqing Lifan. Others to keep an eye out for are Renatinho and Junior Urso of Guangzhou RF, Denilson Gabionetta and Anselmo Ramon from Hangzhou Greentown, Shangdong Luneng’s Diego Tardelli and Gil as well as Hulk’s teammate Oscar at Shanghai SIPG.
Race is on for the Fire-God Trophy
The Chinese Super League is a 16-team competition and it is the top tier of football in China. Founded back in 2004, the Fire-God Trophy is awarded to the champions at the end of the 30 games season. Each of the teams involved plays each other twice, once at home and then again at the venue of their opponents. The competition runs for most of a calendar year, beginning in February and decided in November. The two lowest ranked teams are relegated each season, replaced by the best two from China League One.
Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao rank as the Super League’s most successful team, having won the trophy eight times between 2011 and 2019, finishing as runners up on another one occasion, claiming the silver medal in 2018 when Shanghai SIPG earned the first league glory in their history, having finished second in 2015 and 2017.