What about me coach? How China's rule change could impact foreign talent
Earlier this week, the Chinese Football Association announced new rules regarding foreign players in the Chinese Super League (CSL) starting from the 2017 season, which kicks off in March.
Teams are still able to sign a maximum of five foreign players, but now only three can be fielded in any one game. The other two will be sitting in the stands.
Not only that, the spot that had been reserved for Asian players has disappeared, meaning the South Koreans, Australians and Uzbek stars who want to play in the CSL now have to compete with players not just from elsewhere in Asia, but from all over the world.
With some clubs having conducted their transfer business and others yet to do so, the timing of the announcement has thrown the whole league into confusion. Here FourFourTwo takes a speculative look at some players – both inside China and out – whose futures may be affected by the new rules.
Diego Costa (Chelsea)
Tianjin Quanjian, a newly-promoted club with plenty of money and an owner who enjoys making headlines, claimed they were planning to sign Diego Costa before the new rules were announced.
There has been plenty of interest in the outcast Chelsea striker of late, as has been well reported in British and international media.
But the change in the number of foreign players that can take part in a CSL game means clubs will think a little more about imported talent.
Costa would, of course, start but his arrival would mean coach Fabio Cannavaro having to leave another high-earning foreign player on the sidelines.
Reports in China suggest that a summer move for Costa is still on the cards.
Jackson Martinez (Guangzhou Evergrande)
Much has happened in the last 12 months in Chinese football, but it is only a year since the world sat up and took notice as Guangzhou Evergrande gave Atletico Madrid a reported €42 million (S$64 million) for the Colombian striker.
Yet Martinez rarely looked settled and happy in China's third city.
An early injury did not help but with the resurgent Brazilian Alan playing himself back into the affections of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, it seemed clear to all that Guangzhou – who went on to win a sixth successive domestic championship – looked better without Martinez.
It seems that the striker would not be averse to leaving and Guangzhou have been looking for a new striker.
Jean Kouassi (Shanghai SIPG)
The Ivory Coast striker was something of an unsung hero last season. The arrival of Brazilian goalgetter Elkeson took the headlines in the first half of the season and then the signing of Hulk in the second half was a very big deal in more than one sense.
But the African chipped in with some vital goals, especially after Hulk's immediate injury, as Shanghai finished strongly to take third place and the final Asian Champions League spot.
The arrival of Oscar and the presence of a fully-fit Hulk as well as Elkeson means former Hajduk Split man Kouassi may spend much time on the sidelines.
At the age of 22 time is on his side, but he may end up deciding he isn’t prepared to spend too much of it on the pine.