Every team to win the Chinese Super League

Nine teams have won the Chinese Super League since 2004, but who are they and when did they win their League titles?

The Chinese Super League officially came into being in 2004 after the rebranding of the original Jia-A League, which had become a professional league just ten years earlier.

Since then, there have been nine teams to claim the top league prize and be named champions of Chinese football.

The 2023 season has just a couple of matches remaining for most teams, but the two primary candidates for the title are previous winners, meaning this number will stay at nine for at least another year.

Here, we take a look at those nine clubs and look at their championship history in the Chinese game.

Teams have been listed in order of their first Chinese Super League title victory.

Shenzhen (2004)

In the inaugural season of the Chinese Super League, the title headed south as the then-named Shenzhen Jianlibao were named champions.

The club had suffered through financial difficulties that year, but their league-leading defence (13 goals conceded in 22 matches) guided them to the title with a six-point gap between them and second-placed Shandong Taishan by season’s end.

The win capped off a positive few years under Zhu Guanghu, with the team having finished in the top five of the Jia-A League every year with him at the helm, including a runner up finish in 2002.

The following year they could only muster up a 12th place in 2005 before Zhu left to take charge of the China National Team.

With the current iteration of Shenzhen struggling financially and firmly at the bottom of the league, it’s unlikely we’ll see a surprise league victory anytime in the near future.

Dalian Shide (2005)

2005 is a significant moment in Chinese football history as it marked the final time the legendary Dalian Shide won the title before their ultimate demise in 2012.

Shide, who had dominated Chinese football in the previous decade, claimed their eighth league title in 2005, a record that no team has yet to surpass.

2005 saw the league expanded to 14 teams, with the season now being 26 games instead of 22.

Led by the strike force of Zou Jie (15 goals) and Zoran Jankovic (13 goals), Dalian finished the year with a comfortable 12 point difference over second placed Shanghai Shenhua.

Shandong (2006, 2008, 2010, 2021)

Shandong Taishan are one of two teams to have claimed top spot in China on more than one occasion, with four Chinese Super League titles to their name.

Their first, in 2006, came in a truly dominant season, with the team claiming 69 points in 28 games, with an astonishing 74 goals scored and just three losses recorded across the year.

Li Jinyu (26 goals) and previous CSL champion Zheng Zhu (21 goals) led the way for Shandong, with Shanghai Shenhua once again coming second that season.

After finishing 3rd in 2007, Shandong were back on top in 2008, but this season was much closer fought and they only claimed the title by two points.

Changchun Yatai (2007)

A surprise winner of China’s top football prize came in 2007 when Changchun Yatai were crowned champions, in just their second season in the top tier.

Changchun, formed in 1996, climbed the football pyramid in China but were denied promotion to the Chinese Super League in 2001, where they were runners-up, after a match-fixing scandal and there was no promotion in 2003, after claiming the second tier title, with the top tier rebranded into the CSL for the 2004 season.

Managed by Gao Hongbo, who played a team led by top young Chinese talent in Du Zhenyu, Zhang Xiaofei and Wang Song, Changchun surprised everyone in 2007 and claimed their one and only CSL title.

Between 2006 and 2009, the club were a constant threat in Chinese football and narrowly missed out on the title in 2009, finishing a runners-up.

Fortunes haven’t been as good for the club since then, with relegation in 2018. Changchun bounced back in 2020, claiming the China League One title, and finished fourth in the league the following year.

But now, they are back to being a middle of the pack team under current head coach Chen Yang.

Beijing Guoan (2009)

An ever-present in the top tier of Chinese football, and the reason Changchun Yatai only have one title to their name, is Beijing Guoan, who won the league in 2009.

With a squad featuring the talents of players such as Zhou Ting, Darko Matic, the Griffiths brothers and Wang Zhi in goal, Beijing were a strong side and pipped Changchun to the title after a mid-season managerial change.

The club have finished as runners-up multiple times since the CSL was rebranded, but have so far only won the sole league title.

Guangzhou (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019)

A true era of dominance began in 2011, when Guangzhou Evergrande claimed the first of their eight Chinese Super League titles.

Big spenders throughout this time, memorable import players such as Dario Conca, Muruiqui, Cleo, Paulinho and Elkeson (now Ai Kesen in China after his naturalisation change) as well as top domestic players such as Gao Lin, Zheng Zhi and Feng Xiaoting have all graced Tianhe Stadium and brought about the most dominant period of any club in Chinese football history.

With owners Evergrande falling into financial difficulties since the club’s last league victory, it has impacted the football club heavily, seeing the team effectively relinquish all first-team quality players and suffer relegation after the 2022 season.

Now focused on youth development, the club has survived in its first year in China League One, but continues to be a reminder of a spectacular fall from grace.

Shanghai Port (2018)

The only club to interrupt Guangzhou’s years of dominance was Shanghai SIPG, who claimed the 2018 CSL title.

Having spent big money on players such as Hulk and Oscar, SIPG (now known as Port) were a strong attacking side and saw the very best of top Chinese international Wu Lei, who scored 27 goals en route to the title before earning a move to Espanyol in La Liga.

The club have continued to be a strong side since winning in 2018 and are currently in the hunt for another league title in 2023, with just two matches remaining to secure their fate.

Jiangsu Suning (2020)

A sad situation comes from the 2020 Chinese champions. Jiangsu Suning, with top import talents such as Alex Teixeira and Éder, claimed the Covid-season title after overcoming Guangzhou in a two-legged final.

It was hoped it would begin a new era for the club, with views of claiming future titles and becoming a regular competitor at the top of the table.

However, what followed was owners Suning Group pulling funding for the club and ultimately dissolving it just months later.

The 2021 season saw no reigning champion as Jiangsu Suning ceased to exist, becoming one of many clubs to suffer such a fate in recent years in China.

Wuhan Three Towns (2022)

Another champion with financial difficulties rearing their head not long after is Wuhan Three Towns, who claimed the 2022 title after back to back promotion seasons from China League Two that saw the club’s spending catapult them to the top.

Players such as Wallace, Marcao and Nicolai Stanciu, as well as the free signings claimed from Guangzhou’s troubles, helped Wuhan rocket to the top of the CSL table in their debut season.

It was a sensational achievement, slightly marred by the fact the final game of the season was awarded due to COVID issues around the league, but this year has seen the club suddenly lose its funding and be forced to sell off those key players that had helped them so crucially to the title.

Shandong Taishan and Shanghai Port continue to battle for the 2023 season title, which will see this list altered one way or another upon season’s end.