With the 2023 Chinese Super League season on the horizon, Beijing Guoan have been extremely proactive in building their first-team squad for the new season.
The capital city side will be eager to have a positive year with the return of the home-and-away system, with silverware and an improvement on last year’s seventh-place finish firmly in the minds of fans as well as the club’s hierarchy.
Stanley Menzo will be keen to make an impact in his first full season in charge of the club, and the arrival of eight new players, as well as the extension of one current international, shows clear intent from Beijing.
New Domestic Faces
Of the team’s eight recent signing announcements, five of them are new domestic signings and will all be looking to contribute significantly to the team’s upcoming campaign.
While the club still has the likes of Hou Sen, Zou Dehai and Guo Quanbo capable of playing regularly between the sticks, the club has brought in former Guangzhou City stopper Han Jiaqi for the new season.
The 23-year-old established himself as the first-choice keeper with the recently-dissolved side, making 59 appearances in the Chinese Super League since first making his league debut in 2019.
He has also picked up three caps with the China National Team since last year and could establish himself as the number one for Beijing Guoan once opening day of the 2023 season commences.
Along with Han is Yang Liyu, who arrives in the capital from the other side of Guangzhou, having left the recently relegated Guangzhou FC.
The 26-year-old right-sided winger has been a regular feature in the CSL since his debut with Tianjin TEDA (now Jinmen Tiger) back in 2017, racking up 164 professional appearances including 25 goals and 27 assists. Last season, he netted nine times in 32 league games and will provide Menzo with another offensive weapon.
Playing behind him could be Feng Boxuan, who has established himself as a regular feature at right back for Henan over the past three seasons, having previously played alongside Yang Liyu at Guangzhou earlier in his career.
Then, on the opposite side of the pitch is Fang Hao, who joins Beijing Guoan after making just three appearances for Shandong Taishan last season.
With 35 professional appearances, including 12 with Inner Mongolia Zhongyou and 20 with Wuhan Yangtze River, both now dissolved, Fang Hao will be keen to earn his place in the team and begin to make regular appearances in the league.
A loan move elsewhere could be on the cards by midseason if Beijing are unable to accommodate him frequently in the starting XI.
Li Lei Comes Home
While four of the domestic signings were players who had never worn the famous green shirts before, one player who is extremely familiar with the Workers’ Stadium crowd is Li Lei, who returns after a brief spell in Switzerland.
The left back, who projects to take up his position in the starting line-up immediately, played for Beijing between 2015 and 2021, earning 141 total appearances before taking his talents over to Europe to play for Grasshoppers Club Zürich.
His time in Switzerland was unfortunate, with injuries and a lack of appearances contributing to just 14 total appearances over the past two seasons. A return home, to a familiar environment, should see Li Lei hit the ground running and return to being the player he is known to be.
The 2023 Import Class
Veteran defensive midfielder Josef de Souza headlines the club’s trio of import signings, with the 34-year-old joining from Turkish side Besiktas.
With almost 500 professional games under his belt, including spells Portugal, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and his native Brazil, Souza should be a key contributor in the middle of the pitch.
Another experienced defensive signing, Cameroonian international Michael Ngadeu arrives in the Chinese capital after many years in Belgium with Gent.
Spells in Romania and Czechia preceded his move to Belgium and with almost 400 professional games to his name, he will solidify the heart of the defence and link up well with Souza.
With so many attacking domestic players signed this window, the defensive import theme continues with North Macedonian international Arijan Ademi, who could form a midfield partnership alongside Souza this season.
Playing his entire career in Croatia, primarily with Dinamo Zagreb, Ademi has over 415 professional appearances and will give the team a strong foundation alongside the veteran Brazilian.
Li Ke Returns
A player who can have a significant impact, but has had a torrid time with injuries over the past two years, Li Ke signed a new one-year contract extension at the club this week.
Born Nico Yennaris, the English-Chinese midfielder had a positive start to life in the middle kingdom back in 2019, and soon found himself a key part of the national team setup.
But after making 21 appearances for the club in 2020, 2021 saw him feature just three times and he missed the entirety of the 2022 campaign. A number of surgeries and rehabilitation has followed Li Ke during this period, but he is back in Beijing and looks ready to contribute to the team once again.
Having an international-quality player able to step back into the line-up will be a boost for Beijing Guoan and their endeavours to claim a trophy since 2018.