As Chinese New Year celebrations fully subsided, most Chinese Super League teams, with the notable exception of Kunshan FC, have reassembled for the upcoming new season. And Henan, whose ambitions to play on the continent last year came to an abrupt end as Henrique Dourado barged into the star referee Ma Ning on 21 August in the game away against Wuhan Yangtze FC, is no exception.
Not All Players Have Returned
Most Chinese players have returned for the fitness build-up as head coach Javier Pereira is set to return to China on the 26th of this month.
But not all the players in the squad last year have shown up: Ma Xingyu, 33, whose contract had expired at the end of last year and the defensive midfielder has chosen to join Qingdao Hainiu, which won promotion to the top flight and is in a much better financial condition than Henan.
The move has been announced by both clubs, signaling the end of a five-year spell of the player at the club.
Niu Ziyi, once the first choice to fill out the under-23 player quota last year, also hasn’t shown up either. But he has flown out to the United Arab Emirates for a training camp that is with the U24 national team squad designated for Asia Games in Hangzhou later this year.
The Games ware due to be held last year but was delayed to this September due to lockdowns. Like Gao Tianyu with Zhejiang, Niu Ziyi lost out on much of the progress last year as he was caught with the FIFA bug. This year can be a turning point for him.
Feng Boxuan, 25, who was on the third consecutive loan spell (after the second half of 2020 and the entirety of 2021) from Guangzhou Evergrande (let’s still call them that) last year, seemed to be a shoo-in for a transfer on free agency. The winger started to hesitate and his destination became uncertain as the club looks to downsize its budget in general and payroll in particular.
Club Aim To Halve Operating Budget
The club is said to have set a target of halving its operating budget to 200 million Yuan for the upcoming season, having missed out on the subsidy from AFC for Champions League teams.
The primary reason that Feng Boxuan is likely to end up else elsewhere is the instability within the ownership.
Luoyang government has decided to bite the dust as its investment into the team coincided with the frequent lockdowns and no games were actually played in Luoyang last season. Zhongyuan Bank, which came into interaction with the team as a sponsor as season, is set to become the majority owner with 60%.
Zhengzhou Development Investment Group, Henan capital’s financing vehicle, will see its stake halved to 30%, having gone up from 40% in 2021, and that of Jianye Group, which oversaw the team during Chinese football’s better days, will change from 30% to 10%.
Zhongyuan bank will seek to circumvent the non-corporate name rule in the style of Shanghai Port (and Shandong Taishan) to rebrand the team. The team also can cite the example of Chongqing Liangjiang Athletic, which had Liangjiang group as its main sponsor when it changed its name from Chongqing Lifan.
The arrest of Chen Xuyuan, former chairman of Shanghai International Port Group and Chinese Football Association, means the non-corporate name he insisted on while at the helm of the CFA, means the possibility of relaxation. Even abolition of the rule, unthinkable a few weeks ago, can now be contemplated especially given the financial hardships most, if not all the clubs now play with.