5 Most Expensive Domestic Signings in Chinese Super League History

Chinese Super League

The Chinese Super League is well-known for its brief high-spending era, with exorbitant fees paid for international players across the world.

While fees for domestic players have always typically been quite modest, during the late 2010s saw fees for home-grown players also leap up to surprising heights.

Having already looked at the most expensive signings in Chinese Super League history, it’s time to look at the top five domestic signings, with a clear pattern throughout.

5. Jin Yangyang, Hebei, 2016

In 2015, Hebei China Fortune won promotion to the Chinese Super League for the first time in their brief history, having been established in 2009, and the team’s ownership were determined to make a splash and push to be a strong team in the top tier early on.

One of their first high-profile domestic signings came in February 2016 ahead of their debut top tier season, with Jin Yangyang arriving from Guangzhou R&F for a fee of €10.83 million.

The Dalian-born centre back, who had also previously played for Dalian Shide and Dalian A’erbin, stayed with the team during their best years before moving to Shanghai Shenhua on a free transfer ahead of the 2021 season.

After making 25 appearances in his first season with the club, Jin was limited for the remaining three seasons as more and more players were signed and the shape of the team changed.

After four years in Hebei, he had made 63 appearances in all competitions, going on to feature for Tianjin Jinmen Tiger on loan before establishing himself at Shenhua over the past two seasons, with 38 games in China’s largest city now under his belt, including 14 this year.

4. Zhao Mingjian, Hebei, 2017

2017 was Hebei’s second season in the Chinese Super League, after a seventh place finish in thei debut campaign.

This impressive showing encouraged ownership to pile in even more investment after the plethora of big name signings the year before, this time with a focus on Chinese players.

Right-sided player Zhao Mingjian arrived in 2017 from Shandong Luneng for €10.95 million, bringing with him over 213 games worth of experience with spells with Dalian Shide and Changchun Yatai also.

Capable of playing in defence or midfield, Zhao played 52 league games for Hebei between the 2017 and 2018 season, helping the club to a record fourth place in his debut campaign.

Zhao left ahead of the 2019 season to join hometown Dalian Yifang for around €1.31 million, with a further move to Shanghai Shenhua a year later.

Now 35 years old, Zhao is in the twilight of his career playing in China League One with Dongguan Guanlian, with previous second tier spells with Kunshan FC and Shijiazhuang Gongfu since leaving Hebei.

3. Wang Yongpo, Tianjin Quanjian, 2017

Finally, a team other than Hebei getting in on the high-spending action in 2017, was Tianjin Quanjian.

For a fee of €12.44 million, experienced Chinese international midfielder Wang Yongpo joined from Shandong Luneng, having made over 215 appearances for the club.

Wang was an immediate impact player in Tianjin, where he helped the team to a third place finish in 3017, securing Asian Champions League football in 2018 as the future looked bright at the club.

His debut campaign was followed up with a disappointing ninth place in 2018, and 2019 saw him make just 10 appearances before leaving for Shanghai Shenhua halfway through the year.

Now with Shenzhen in the Chinese Super League, Wang Yongpo is near the end of his career and has not had the same success since leaving Shandong and his first year in Tianjin.

2. Zhao Yuhao, Hebei, 2017

Back with Hebei, it’s another 2017 addition that lands as the second-highest on this list in defensive midfielder Zhao Yuhao.

Zhao arrived from Hangzhou Greenstone for €17.8 million in 2017 and became an important player early on.

He made 24 appearances in his first year, and won the first of his three international caps for China while the team finished fourth in the league.

He then quickly became more of a rotational player, never playing more than 14 games in a league season.

He did, however, stick with the team until after the 2020 season, moving to Henan for 2021 where he remains to this day.

All told, Zhao Yuhao played 68 games for Hebei but could not establish himself as a mainstay in the side despite his extremely high transfer fee.

1. Zhang Chengdong, Hebei, 2017

For Hebei, the majority of players that featured on this list did not live up to expectations and were not truly deserving of their lofty price tag.

At the top of this list, however, is someone who was a crucial player for the team for five years, Zhang Chengdong.

After spells in Europe, Zhang Chengdong played a few seasons for Beijing Guoan in the Chinese Super League before making his €20.44 million move to Hebei in 2017.

He was a regular on the wing from day one, making 110 appearances and scoring nine goals between 2017 and 2021.

He ultimately left the club ahead of the 2022 season, still an important player, rejoining Beijing Guoan where he currently plays.

It was a crazy period in Chinese Super League history, but both clubs on this list succumbed to the financial difficulties they plunged themselves into and no longer exist, with Hebei holding out until suffering relegation in 2022.

In 2023 and beyond, with new financial regulations in place, fees of this magnitude will not be seen again, especially for domestic players and so it is likely that this list will go untouched for many years to come.