Following an international break that was disappointing for China, we now return to club football news as supporters in the Far East look ahead to the Chinese FA Cup final as well as the AFC Champions League final.
Shanghai SIPG take on city rivals Shenua in the first of two FA Cup final legs on Sunday, while the Champions League final’s first leg takes place today between Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal and Japan’s Urawa Reds as SIPG were eliminated in the semi’s. The big news of the last few days has shown that the CSL can still compete for one AFC award though, as Wu Lei will represent SIPG and the CSL as a nominee for the AFC Player of the Year award.
In addition to this news, there has of course been some developments with regard to CSL player transfers. As usual, we will be covering those that appear to carry the most credibility, but since CSL signings and departures are such easy stories to manufacture they should all be taken with a pinch of salt!
Lei up against the Omar’s for AFC gong
The Asian Football Confederation has announced three nominees for the annual major award, with Lei joined by last year’s winner Omar Abdulrahman of the UAE and Al Ain, and this year’s favourite Omar Kharbin of Syria and Al Hilal.
Each of the three players have of course enjoyed successful seasons on a personal level, but it is the success that Al Hilal have managed this season as a result of Kharbin’s performances that makes the Syrian favourite. Kharbin is the top scorer in Asia’s greatest club competition with nine Champions League goals already, and his side are of course still to play two legs in the final against Urawa reds.
Lei’s nomination is fantastic news for China and the CSL though, and the winger deserves a lot of respect for his stand out performances in a league that is dominated by foreign talent. Even within Lei’s specific club, it is difficult not to be overshadowed by star players like Hulk and Oscar, but the Chinese star’s 20 CSL goals this season have emphatically ensured that isn’t the case.
Hulk reveals Premier League interest
A player that has been linked with a move to the Premier League ever since he first kicked a football, Hulk is now 31 but continues to flirt with the idea of a transfer to England finally happening. As an SIPG player, Hulk still has the FA Cup final to play over the next week but since the new CSL season then won’t start until March, it is claimed that a January move to the Premier League may be on the cards.
Hulk himself appears keen on the idea, as quoted by The Daily Mirror:
“I received one contact from the Premier League and quite a few others from other countries. I admire very much the Premier League and it is considered not by accident the best league in the world.”
“Everything can happen and my agent Daniel Lorenz receives contact from Europe including from the UK so in football you never know and sometimes when you least expect you can have an invitation and things can change.”
Hulk was a crucial player for SIPG in the 2017 CSL, scoring 17 goals and supplying 11 assists.
Beijing Guoan plot ambitious move for La Liga forward
Finally, in what appears to be a slightly less workable deal, Beijing Guoan are supposedly keen on bringing Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez to China despite the Uruguayan having only recently arrived in La Liga. Gomez joined Celta from Uruguay’s Defensor Sporting for €4 million on a lengthy five-year deal, meaning even the healthy profit the Spanish side would make from Guoan’s reported €20 million bid is unlikely to sway them into selling.
Gomez, 21, is among the most promising strikers in the Spanish top flight and has already bagged 5 goals in his ten appearances so far this campaign. A current international, the detrimental affect a move to the CSL would likely have on Gomez’s chances of making the World Cup squad is another reason why this one probably ain’t gonna happen.