Today, Meizhou Hekka has announced for newly signed first-team players, most of whom will at least compete for a place in the team’s regular rotation.
Cheng Yuelei had long been linked to a move out of Guangzhou City, who is finances are struggling to keep up even by Chinese Super League standards. Having played for various levels of the youth team for the national team, Cheng has had a more forgettable senior squad experience, earning only two caps. Competition at Guangzhou City was also piling up, as the number one choice for the current U23 team Han Jiaqi has come of age and another youngster Zhou Junchen also showing potential. Cheng’s time in Guangzhou City already saw the writing on the wall. But a move south of just under four hundred kilometers won’t affect too much. But the compeition with Hou Yu, the team’s regular starting keeper last season and a small-time online celebrity for his fondness of Football Manager series and streaming playing it, will be fierce. He will wear number 18, worn last sesaon by Huo Liang, a centre-back rarely used, in the new season.
A Meizhou native, Rao Weihui spent most of his best years in the north after coming through the youth academy of Shaanxi Chanba, now known as Beijing Renhe. Rao started his career as a left-winger but has steadily drifted to more defensive positions, first to left back then spent the majority of last season as the left centre-back in Changchun’s 5-4-1 setting. He will wear his favourite number 31 in the new season.
Born in Shenzhen, which is also only less than 400 kilometres from Meizhou, Chen Jie is the only player of the six spent last season in the second tier. But he did end up winning League One with Kunshan, even though injuries limited his number of appearances to 12 games. He replaces Cai Haochang, who by all acounts has left the team but has no known destination, as the team’s first-choice back-up anchor man, deputising for the vice captain Shi Liang. He will wear number 30.
Having played a suffocating season with Hebei, Pan Ximing was finally liberated from another season with a team expecting a five-goal loss every game. But his presence last season was not totally ignored by scouts, who knew it was not his fault to concede all those goals. After all, when he played in a perfectly normal team he was a normal, if somewhat average centre-back. The native from Benxi, Liaoning will wear number 4, a number surprisingly went unused last season.
Probably the most exciting signing and the biggest catch of the six. Li Yongjia demonstrated last season the kind of Box-to-Box player he can once be – should he be fully developed, there is no doubt he should occupy a place on the national team for years to come. However, it is doubtful that he can have as much as playing time last season in direct competition with Nebojsa Kosovic. Unless, of course, Kosovic had left the club unannounced, which is not impossible given the things all had to go through last year.
Li will wear number 38, just like when he was at Guangzhou City. Coming from Foshan, near Guangzhou, he will have no trouble immersing himself with local players.
Probably will prove to be the last competitive of the cohort. One of the reasons is his position is vacillating between the defensive midfielder and centre-back. But it is still better than Yi Teng, the ex-Guangzhou City defender has failed trials both at Qingdao and Meizhou. At least that will make Cheng Yuelei sleep better.
Yao will wear number 28 left by Cai Haochang.